ETV's Akuaalne kaamera (AK) reported on Wednesday that Harju County is facing a cemetery shortage after internal migration to the north of the country.
Since the agreement on the use of gravesites in Tallinn's cemeteries is concluded only with residents of Tallinn, and many cemeteries in Harju County with a growing population have not created new ones, the problem of burying relatives close to the capital is gradually getting worse.
Over the past 15 years, a significant number of people have moved to the capital. While municipalities that have gained residents have built new kindergartens and schools, no provision has been taken for the afterlife.
In recent years, not a single cemetery has been built in Harju County, and in some large municipalities there are none at all, AK reported on Wednesday.
"While other infrastructure has been put in place, the cemeteries are the only areas that have been forgotten," said Tanel Ots, the mayor of Saku.
Although most newcomers to the county are younger people, there is already a risk of a cemetery crisis. In Tallinn, only inhabitants of the capital can be buried in the capital's graveyards.
The situation is complicated by the fact that when a person dies, a family has to decide within a few days whether to bury their loved one at home in the ancestral graveyard or find a place in a strange cemetery. When choosing a location close to a previous home, there is fear that no one will care for it in the future as it is far away, which upsets many people.
Twelve years ago Saku rural municipality reserved a large area to build a new cemetery jointly with Tallinn, but this has not been finalized. The light traffic road between Saku and Tallinn was also built wider than usual, with the new cemetery in mind.
Jaak Taevas, the head of Tallinn Cemeteries, said that the capital has given up this opportunity because after the expansion of the Liiva cemetery, there will be places for people in Tallinn cemeteries. As more than half of those who die are cremated, in the near future an urn wall will be built on the Inner City Cemetery. It is also planned to build urn chambers within the wall of the Liiva cemetery.
But the nearby municipalities of Tallinn, according to Taevas, must solve their problem themselves.
Currently there are four small cemeteries in Viimsi rural municipality, which has a population of over 20,000. Historically the inhabitants of the peninsula have also been buried close by in Pirita or Jõelähtme cemeteries. For the newer residents, however, the only option is the small Rohuneeme cemetery, built a hundred years ago. There is also an option to be buried in the cemeteries on the islands of Naissaar and Prangli.
"We have been thinking about expanding, and indeed next year, a new quarter is planned to be opened here at Rohuneeme Cemetery," said Alar Mik, Head of the Construction and Utilities Department of Viimsi Municipal Government. There is so much land around the cemetery that the graveyard could expand up to six times its current size.
Viimsi municipality does not impose place of residence requirements so far, but Mik said this may need to change soon.
Editor: Helen Wright