KATHMANDU, Nepal – The government has intensify the plans to develop Lumbini area as a ‘tourist hub of the country’ incorporating the birth place of Gautam Buddha and other places of importance in the surroundings.
The hub that will be the first of its kind in the country is expected to lure more than one billion Buddhists and other tourists across the world. The government has also released the budget in annual system for the project.
“Lumbini is the birth place of Gautam Buddha and the shrine for all Buddhists. It also carries a high importance for other tourists,” said Purna Chandra Bhattarai, Joint-secretary at Ministry for Tourism and Civil Aviation, describing the need for development of Lumbini circuit. “Only a fraction of the number will be very for the country’s economy,” Bhattarai said clarifying the government initiative to develop the Lumbini hub.
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, sees Buddhist devotees coming in large numbers but still falls short for such a highly venerated site.
The present Lumbini site developed for tourists is a small area. The tourist hub aims to encompass the three districts of Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilbastu. This will mean a greater area of historical and religious interest for the tourists. If this project moves ahead as planned, the length of stay of the tourists too can be increased and the local people will see greater employment opportunities as well as enhanced living standard.
Moreover, it is not only the foreign tourists but also domestic tourists who will be able to visit and acquire knowledge about the great son of Nepal, Buddha. At present only about 8,00,000 tourists visit Lumbini, including the Nepali visitors. Moreover, most of the foreign tourists make a day-stop to visit Lumbini and return, without any overnight stop.
The plan aims at creating other infrastructures to enable the tourists to visit other places in the area related to the Buddha and the Shakya kings, so that their duration of stay could be stretched, which would mean a boost for the Nepali tourism sector. This would mean more employment, more business for ancillary services and more demand for local products.
It is certain that if the mega-project to develop Lumbini as the tourist hub moves as planned with generous investment from the government and the private sector, the benefits that will accrue in the long run will be commensurate. It makes sense to plan big that gives results in income generating activities as well as encouraging religious tourism for which Nepal has immense potential lying under-tapped so far.
However, the Lumbini Master Plan, aimed at developing Mayadevi Temple, the Ashokan pillar and the surrounding area, was supposed to be completed in 1995, but still a quarter of the work remains. According to the Tourism Ministry, for the completion of the said master plan a further five billion rupees have to be invested. But if the works complete in time and the tourist hub plan get shape, it would definitely change the tourism scenario there.