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More Swiss opt for countryside burial

Ueli Sauter is the brains behind Switzerland's "forests of rest"

(Keystone)

More and more Swiss are rejecting traditional cemeteries and choosing instead to be laid to rest in a natural environment. Undertakers offering forest burials are reporting booming business.

Since the early 1990s the Swiss have had the option to have their ashes scattered under a tree in a private wood, rather than placed in an urn and buried in a cemetery. The idea has taken off to such an extent that there are now 25 "forests of rest" across the country.

The brains behind the project, Ueli Sauter, says Switzerland is the only country to offer this alternative. In the last two years, he says, interest in the concept has increased dramatically.

The idea first came to Sauter more than 10 years ago when a friend living in England spoke of his desire to have his ashes brought to Switzerland for burial.

Initially Sauter's idea met with opposition from local authorities. "Because this was new and untested and there had never been this association between cemetery and forest before, the authorities didn't know what they were letting themselves in for," he explained.

Eastern Swiss areas were first to embrace the concept, but "forests of rest" are now to be found in all parts of the country, except the southern canton of Ticino.

The cost of a forest burial starts at SFr4,000 ($2,315), of which SFr1,5000 goes to the owner of the wood. The cost covers the burial and guarantees that the ashes will lie undisturbed for a period of 50 to 99 years.

It is also possible to buy a family tree so that members of the same family can be laid to rest in the same place.

swissinfo with agencies

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