Dying Prohibited in France

Renowned for its breathtaking scenery and a clear blue Mediterranean Sea, the Riviera town of Le Lavandou is drawing headlines for a new local law that makes dying a grave offence. The town's only cemetery is full and plans for a new one near the coast was rejected earlier this month by a regional court, which ruled the proposal violated a law on sea shore constructions. Le Lavandou, 40 kilometres east of Toulon, responded with a new bylaw Tuesday which reads: "It is forbidden, without a cemetery plot, to die on the territory of the commune." Under Le Lavandou's planning code, the coastal graveyard project did not qualify as using "light equipment," which is authorized on sea shores. A group of ecologists took the town project to court and proposed an alternative location -- a rock quarry in a less populated part of town Le Lavandou's mayor, Gil Bernardi, is fiercely opposed. He likened the quarry to a "dump" that does not respect the dead. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged the ruling against dying was "absurd" but insisted it was "enacted because of an absurd situation." He said there would be no punishment for those found breaking the law. The appeal procedure to overturn the regional court ruling could last up to three years. Meanwhile, only about half of the 80 people or so who die each year in Le Lavandou will do so legally as plot owners. Currently, the bodies of 19 people are awaiting a final resting place. Since the deceased were unable to secure a cemetery plot, they are temporarily being "hosted" in friends' vaults.

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