2017 04 14 ST 20170423 JPDEAD23 3094945Catacombs, speeding up decomposition among ways to cope with rising death rate.

A looming shortage of burial space in Australia's largest city is forcing cemeteries to come up with some creative ways of dealing with the dead.

Approaches ranging from catacombs to developing ways to speed up decomposition are being considered across Sydney, a city of five million people which is fast running out of burial space, particularly as its population grows.

Faced with dwindling land in this crowded city, along with an ageing population, it is estimated that Sydney's major cemeteries will run out of space within 30 years.

In Matraville, in the eastern suburbs, the space shortage has sparked one cemetery to consider developing the nation's first catacombs - underground caverns similar to those in ancient Rome. These would provide 7,000 burial spaces in a multi-storey, obviously more than six feet under, "carpark-style" structure.

Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust CEO Graham Boyd said the cemetery - which began operating in 1893 - figures it will run out of space within 15 years. He said the catacombs will need council approval and could be built within five years at a cost of up to A$10 million (S$10.5 million).

To read the full article go to The Straits Times.