LUMBINI, May 18: When Lumbini master plan was designed some 41 years ago, seven villages had to be relocated. The villages dominated by Muslim communities had embraced the development plan and cooperated with the authorities for their relocation. Four decades down the line, several projects are still unfinished much to the disappointment of the people who had dreamt of prosperous Lumbini.
In mid-May, around three-dozen Sri Lankans were in Lumbini for a two-day visit. Sixteen rooms were booked for them at Hotel Lumbini. However, they did not stay even for a single day. After taking a round of Lumbini temple in the noon, they were gone by the evening.
Just a few days ago, some tourists from European countries had visited Lumbini. They stayed for a single day. Even though the guides asked them to visit important tourism sites in Kapilvastu and Nawalparasi, they showed no interest.
According to reports of the Lumbini Development Trust, over 80 percent of tourists who visit Lumbini temple return the same day. Had the projects been well developed and preparations made accordingly, tourism would boom in Lumbini, according to tourism experts.
"If the projects as envisioned by the master plan had materialized, the situation in Lumbini would have been different today," said Ramchandra Sedhai, a tourism expert.
According to him, Lumbini should be developed in such a way that it resonates the life of Buddha, the art and culture of the ancient time and the philosophy. The master plan was designed accordingly, but a lot needs to be done for its completion.
The trust claims that 80 percent of the plan has been completed. It will take two and a half years to complete rest of the projects which may require around Rs 6 billion. The projects had kicked off in 1978.
"In the last 41 years, 80 percent of the works have been completed. It might take around two and a half years to finish it now," said monk Maiteya, vice president of the trust. "We have been studying it closely and trying to complete things as soon as possible."
Monk Maiteya stated that the delay was due to poor management. "Inability to hand over contracts on time caused the delay. There are many mini projects under the master plan and sub-contracting the projects was not smart," he explained. He further added that political appointment of key decision makers also affected the pace of work.
"Lumbini Master Plan became a victim of political appointment. One or the other party tried to make this trust a political platform," he said.
Lumbini area is spread over 1150 bighas of land. Lakes, historical monuments, archeological blocks and gardens are the main features of the site. Under the master plan, some 'bihars' have been constructed and some others are under construction at Lumbinigram, which also has a research center, library, museum and an auditorium hall. It still requires a high school, health clinic, administrative block, garbage processing center and road among others which were meant to be built here.
The incomplete work has made the entire area an eyesore, according to Sedhai. As per the data of the trust, the number of tourists visiting Lumbini is however on the rise every year. Around 150,000 tourists (including internal) make it to Lumbini annually while the number was just 9,000 in 2002. The tourists include Indians, Europeans, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Iraqi, among others.