SINGAPORE: The upcoming funeral parlour at Bukit Batok Street 23 will have to put in place measures to minimise inconveniences to nearby residents, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Tuesday (Feb 12).
This includes confining rituals to its site and ensuring its hearses avoid roads in residential areas as much as possible, Mr Masagos told Parliament.
As part of their tender for the site, funeral parlour operators should indicate their designated hearse routes, he said, adding that the National Environment Agency (NEA) will advise them which routes to take.
CONFINING FUNERAL PROCESSIONS WITHIN SITE
The minister was responding to a question from Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC Murali Pillai, who asked about "mitigation measures" for the site given that the nearest housing estate is 200m away.
Besides confining ritual and funeral processions to the site as much as possible, sufficient parking facilities should also be provided within the site, Mr Masagos said.
"These measures can include barriers such as plantings and setback from the road to keep funeral activities discreet, and the provision of eco-friendly burners to minimise smoke emissions," he added.
On Jan 8, NEA announced that four new funeral parlour sites - including the one at Bukit Batok - will be progressively launched for development over the next decade to meet an expected increase in demand.
The other three sites will be located at Woodlands Industrial Park E8, Ang Mo Kio Street 63 – close to metal polishing and automotive spare parts factories – and Mandai Road near the existing Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium.
"The sites were selected after considering factors such as development plans for the surrounding area, the capacity of the road network to support the anticipated traffic and accessibility to public transport," Mr Masagos said.
He added that the Bukit Batok site, which is surrounded by industrial developments and located next to an existing columbarium, will cater to demand in the western part of Singapore.
"There is a dearth of (funeral) facilities in the western region," Mr Masagos said, noting that the nearest one is in Choa Chu Kang and is not easily accessed with public transportation. "We think it is useful to have one in that area."
As a small and densely populated country, Singapore will always have competing demands for space to meet its development needs, Mr Masagos said.
"From time to time, we may have to make adjustments to accommodate these developments," he stated.
"Through careful planning and by taking mitigation measures, the Government will make the best effort to minimise potential disamenities arising from these developments."
RESIDENTS TO BE CONSULTED
MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah asked if residents living near the upcoming sites will be consulted before funeral parlour designs are finalised, adding that her constituents in Meng Suan estate in Mandai have said hearses frequently use roads in that area.
"We will consult with advisors and grassroots members to communicate with residents and get feedback on concerns they have," Mr Masagos said.
However, he stated that it is important to recognise that funeral parlours are "important social infrastructure".
Some people want a quiet place to grieve for the loved ones they have lost, he added. "We want to make sure the religious and cultural practices are being met."
To that end, Mr Masagos said Singaporeans should keep a "sense of accommodation and respect" for people who need the facilities in times of bereavement.
"We as Singaporeans living in HDB estates are very used to seeing funeral wakes at void decks," he added. "This is one big-hearted society where we have never minded seeing funerals or weddings below where we live.
"There are disamenities and we have tolerated them for a long time ever since we have HDB flats."