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Pashupati, Lumbini, Janakpur slated for major dev

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Aug 2, 2016-

Three key heritage sites in the country—Pashupati, Lumbini and Janakpur—have been slated for major infrastructural development this fiscal year in a bid to pump up religious and cultural tourism after poor budget expenditure in the last fiscal year.

Officials of the Pashupati Area Development Trust, Lumbini Development Trust, and Greater Janakpur Area Development Council told the parliamentary International Relations and Labour Committee on Sunday that the earthquake, Tarai unrest and shortages of fuel and construction materials had affected their progress, but they had planned a major infrastructural push this fiscal year.

The Pashupati Area Development Trust was able to spend only Rs90 million of its total allocated development budget of Rs350 million in the last fiscal year.  

Govinda Tandan, member secretary of the trust, told the lawmakers that they had begun work to construct a luxury 400-room dharmashala (pilgrims’ rest house) this

fiscal year. The project is expected to cost Rs220 million and be completed in 18 months, he said.

“Once the facility is ready, we will be able to develop tourist packages targeting the Indian market,” he said. Besides, the trust has been working on a master plan to conserve the Pashupati area and promote religious and cultural sites.

According to the Tourism Ministry, Pashupati received 78,680 foreign tourists (excluding Indians) last year, a sharp drop from 166,173 in the previous year. The fall in tourism has severely dented the trust’s revenue.

Tandan said income from foreign tourists plunged to Rs90 million last year from Rs170 million in the previous year. The Pashupati area, which contains a plethora of shrines, temples and burning ghats with the Pashupati Temple forming the centrepiece, is one of the holiest sites for Hindus. Pashupati has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since October 1979.

Likewise, the Lumbini Development Trust is planning to implement a 10-year master plan to develop Lumbini as a pilgrimage hub. The objective of the plan is to increase the length of stay and spending of tourists and create potential impacts on the livelihood of local communities.

The plan envisages integrating Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha; Tilaurakot, his childhood home; Devdaha, his maternal and in-laws home town and Ramgram in Nawalparasi, which contains one of the relics of the Buddha, into the Greater Lumbini Development Area which will be 157 square kilometres in size.

Ven Nigrodha (Siddhartha Maharjan), vice-chairman of the Lumbini Development Trust, told the lawmakers that they would require Rs9 billion to implement the master plan. He said that the trust had started the construction work of an auditorium with a capacity of 5,000 people.

“The immediate implementation of the master plan has become urgent as we estimate that after Gautam Buddha International Airport comes into operation, the existing infrastructure will be inadequate to handle the growth in arrivals,” he said.  

Currently, due to lack of infrastructure and effective tour packages, visitors hardly spend a day at the birthplace of the Buddha.

Lumbini is seen as a potential world class tourist destination for 500 million Buddhists in Asia. It hosts the birthplace of the Buddha and over 100 related archaeological sites scattered within a 50-km radius.

According to the ministry’s statistics, Lumbini received 748,294 visitors last year. Among them, 488,852 were Nepalis, 130,262 Indian and 129,180 foreigners. Tourists from 70 countries visited Lumbini last year. 

The government had allocated Rs550 million for infrastructure development in Lumbini in the last fiscal year. However, only Rs247 million of it was spent. Lumbini was inscribed in Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1997.

Similarly, the Greater Janakpur Area Development Council has formulated a master plan and submitted it to the Tourism Ministry.

“The master plan aims to protect heritage and cultural sites, promote the palace of historical king Janak and establish Janakpur as one of the key cultural tourism sites,” said the council’s Executive Director Umesh Yadav.

“The master plan is in the process of being approved by the ministry,” he told the lawmakers.

Janakpur World Heritage bid

KATHMANDU: The parliamentary International Relations and Labour Committee on Sunday directed the government to make special efforts to have Janakpur enshrined as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Ram Janaki Temple is one of the key holy places for Hindus. The temple is dedicated to Janaki or Sita, the consort of Hindu god Ram.

There are various potential archaeological sites, but they have not been excavated.

Published: 02-08-2016 08:56

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