Key to the garden

The newly appointed vice-chairman of the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) has promised a ‘review’ of the almost three-decade-old Lumbini Master Plan, originally drafted by the Japanese architect Zenji Tange in 1978. He said that such a review was essential to ‘meet the expectations of the Buddhist community of the world’ and to identify more areas in Lumbini, a Cultural World Heritage Site, for urgent conservation work. The LDT is said to now focus on three crucial aspects relating to the development of Lumbini — maintaining tranquillity and reviving the sanctity of the area, incorporating other sites to increase space, and strengthening relations with local and international stakeholders.

The plan is impressive because it is attainable. The new vice president is also talking of minimising political interference. But talking and doing are two different things, as the history of Lumbini development testifies. Real development of the site has so far been moving at a snail’s pace. The actual challenge before the planners and the LDT is to ensure that the Master Plan is incorporated in the government’s action plan, to change the face of Lumbini. As the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini is a major tourist destination in Nepal. So, serious effort needs to be made to stop illegal construction around the site, control rising commercialisation and revive and retain the religious ambience of the place. For this, the state can seek active involvement of the civil society groups as well as international Buddhist organisations the world over.