Singapore - Land-scarce Singapore has announced it will start using new, concrete-lined graves that enable cemeteries to hold 15 percent more bodies.

Regulations require unlined earthen graves to be at least 45 centimetres apart to prevent soil erosion, said a statement issued on Monday by the National Environment Agency.

The new graves, separated by concrete wall slabs, will be just 15 centimetres apart, the statement said.

Singapore, a Southeast Asian island city-state of 700 square kilometres and 4,5 million people, has "limited land for burial," the statement said.

"There is thus a need to maximise the land allocated so that there will be enough space for burials to continue," it said.

The concrete dividers will allow for 240 more graves per hectare, the statement said.

More than 12 000 such graves have already been built at a cost of 11 million Singapore dollars (about R50,2-million), the agency said.

The agency said it will continually review the need to build more such graves.

It said the new graves do not have concrete flooring, so the coffin or body will still be in contact with the soil as required by some religions.

The agency said it had received the approval for the new system from all major religious groups in Singapore, including the five that do not allow cremation: Muslims, Jews, Parsis, Ahmaddiyas, and followers of the Baha'i faith.

The new graves follow a 1998 burial policy under which remains must be exhumed after 15 years. Then, depending on religion, they are either cremated or placed in a concrete crypt with the remains of seven other people, the agency said. - Sapa-AP