KATHMANDU: The UNESCO office in Kathmandu has welcomed a recent decision of the Industrial Promotion Board under Ministry of Industry to limit industrial activities in and around the Lumbini World Heritage Site.

The UN office has said it as an important step in efforts to protect and preserve the birthplace of Lord Buddha. "The decision taken by the Board will help restrict industrial activities in the area on several levels," UNESCO said in a press release issued here yesterday.

According to UNESCO, the 15 km area from the northern, eastern and western boundaries of the present project area as designated in the Kenzo Tange Master Plan within which the Lumbini World Heritage Property lies, and south up to the Indian border and 800 metres in both sides of the road along the Lumbini-Bhairahawa Corridor, will be off-limits for establishment of new factories except for those which do not emit carbon.

As the government plans go, industries already existing within this area can operate only if they respect the Environment Protection Act. Industries which do not respect the Act will be a matter of discussion in order to relocate them within two years.

Provision will be made to avoid further increase of capital, capacity and objectives of those industries and to prevent them from exceeding their present level of electricity consumption.

A representative of the Lumbini Development Trust will be included in the Environment Impact Assessment Committee whenever the same is requested to authorise the establishment of small and cottage enterprises in the Lumbini area and new industrial development along the Bhairahawa-Lumbini roads up to the Airport junction as well as further increase of capital, capacity, objectives and electricity consumption by existing industries. Industries already registered but at present not operating within the 15 km area need to take pollution control measures as per the Environment Protection Act, while those which do not meet the requirements will be relocated in other parts within a given time frame.

Unrestrained industrial development has presented one of the greatest threats to archaeological sites scattered across the area between Tilaurakot and Ramagram in recent years. It not only impacts on the serenity of the sacred landscape but also endangers the site's many ancient archaeological vestiges. "The announcement reaffirms the government's determination to support the on-going preparation of Integrated Management Plan for Lumbini and the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu remains committed to working in close cooperation with the Government and Lumbini authorities to further assist Nepal in the preservation of the unique site,"it was stated.