LUMBINI: The master plan for Lumbini prepared by Kenzo Tange covers an area of five by five square miles, with the central square mile being the sacred garden. Of the master plan area, three square miles include the central sacred garden and the two square miles towards the north create the project area. This area was expropriated and brought
under government ownership in the 1970s.
The project area was planned out in detail based on Buddhist symbolism of geometric shapes and the path to enlightenment.
The entrance is placed in the north where the worldly activities are located. The central axis from here passes the cultural centre and the monastic zone where people seek knowledge and live religious lives. The axis then passes the meditation centres symbolising the spiritual purification of the mind, before reaching the sacred gardens of
enlightenment. These facilities are surrounded by forested areas. To either side of the project area are three square miles of ‘restricted area’, where only restricted dev-
elopment was going to be allowed. The remaining part of the five by five square mile, located within the rural areas of 10 Village Development Committees (VDCs) of
Rupendehi District, was designated to remain an Agricultural Zone.
Implementation of the master plan commenced in 1978 and was initially scheduled to be completed by 1985. Progress was however slower than anticipated. In 1985, the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) Act was formulated and passed. The Lumbini Development Trust was given the legal mandate to manage the Lumbini Development Area (which included the Buddhist sites in the region) and implement the Lumbini Development Plan.
Kenzo Tange determined an area around the main archaeological remains as the sacred garden. This area has the dimensions of one mile (1,600 metres) in the east-west direction and little less than a mile (1,360 metres) in the north-south direction. The sacred garden has been divided into two parts by the introduction of an artificial water body and levee. The levee and water bodies were designed to encase and protect the most sacred area of Lumbini. By doing so, the area containing the main archaeological remains has been segregated from the surrounding landscape. Due to this major intrusion into the existing landscape — which has its justification to control flooding of the main archaeological areas — only the inner sacred garden could be proposed for World Heritage and its buffer zone. In 1997, Lumbini was inscribed on the List of World Heritage. The boundaries only included the central area around the Asokan pillar of 130 by 150 metres. As per the master plan, the surrounding outer sacred garden is defined as a ‘wooded area’.
It was clear that LDT would only be administering the project area. There was no authority or special provisions for regulating development in the Restricted Areas and the Agricultural Zone. The establishment of development controls requires a single authority which has the capacity to monitor and enforce bylaws. Such an authority does not exist around Lumbini, and therefore there is a dangerous trend of multi-storey construction taking place just outside the sacred garden. How do we put this authority in place? Or do we go for a vision plan as is being prepared by Dr Kwaak — a plan which will be
superimposed over Kenzo Tange’s Master Plan, bringing with it an entirely new concept of a World Peace City, with devotional migrants living in radial petal shaped sanghas around the Sacred Garden. How many plans do we need?
(The author is an architect and can be contacted through email@example.com)