Nepal | January 17, 2021

Swoyambhu stakeholders against Ring Road expansion

Himalayan News Service
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Religious leaders, locals and activists around Swoyambhunath temple, one of the world heritage sites, have announced protest programmes against the soon-to-start Ring Road expansion project, saying the road expansion would demolish some monasteries, and religious structures inside the area.

Stakeholders formed the ‘Save Swoyambhu (World Heritage Site) Campaign’, in a bid to exert pressure on the government to find other solutions to road expansion and to generate public awareness on the issue.

People, mostly from the Buddhist community joined the campaign after the government marked some areas, including gumbas and other religious sites inside the area, for demolition.

The Department of Road had around 10 months ago put a red mark inside the park suggesting some religious buildings inside the world heritage site needed to be demolished for expansion of the Ring Road.

The government had on March 5 given the green signal for the second phase expansion of the 8.2-km stretch of the Ring Road section from Kalanki to Maharajgunj. The project, which will be undertaken by the Chinese government, will widen the existing two-lane road to a 62-metre-wide eight-lane road along with additional six-metrewide lanes on both sides of the road.

The project which was to begin a few months earlier was postponed due to the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown imposed on March 24.

Members of Save Swoyambhu Campaign said the expansion would encroach around five feet to 15 feet inside the boundary of the world heritage site leading to demolition of archaeologically important prayer wheel, the thousand Buddha chaitya, re-establish WHS’s boundary stones, and remove some physical infrastructure of the 75 feet tall iconic Bodhi Chaitya.

Sunil Gurung, secretary of the campaign, said it was very sad that the leaders did not reconsider saving the world heritage site dedicated to Lord Buddha and Buddhism in the country. “These monuments were built with permission from the Department of Archaeology and UNESCO. We didn’t build this over some private property. We built this for the glory of our own country and for the glory of Lord Buddha.

Now, we won’t let the government demolish it.”

Acharya Nurbhu Sherpa, president of the campaign and also chairperson of Nepal Bouddha Federation, said they had formed the campaign seeking a solution to the problem that had arisen. “We want the government to know that the areas it wants to clear are inside the world heritage site.

And we suspect even government officials might have not been properly informed about the matter.”

The campaign, in the coming days, has proposed to submit memorandum to various government bodies, including the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure, road division, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Department of Archaeology and the UNESCO. In future, it plans to organise various public awareness programmes, signature campaigns and hold peaceful candle vigils.

A version of this article appears in print on November 30, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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