Thursday, 18 July, 2024

Threatened Heritage

Nepal is well-known for her abundant natural resources, and age-old monuments and cultural heritage sites in the international arena. The country is home to numerous cultural heritage sites as well as national parks and other protected areas. Keeping such invaluable assets in mind, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has already listed eight monument sites as World Heritage Sites (Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Swayambhu, Pashupatinath, Bouddhath, Changunarayan and Lumbini) and two national parks (Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park) as World Heritage Sites (natural). However, it has been quite challenging for the country to maintain and preserve such sites in accordance with the UNESCO’s guidelines. Responsible authorities often find it difficult to check haphazard construction of private homes and other structures at or near such significant sites. A world body dedicated to conserving the heritage sites, the UNESCO has time and again raised its serious concerns over the structures built at different World Heritage Sites without adhering to standards set by it.

As part of studying and monitoring the on-going activities in Lumbini, a Reactive Monitoring Mission of the UNESCO is scheduled to visit the birthplace of Lord Buddha in the first week of March. According to a news report published in this daily, the mission will inspect the new structure of the Maya Devi Temple, other monuments and meditation centre. It is reported that the meditation centre can accommodate about 5,000 persons. It may be recalled here that the UNESCO has already warned that those structures could have negative impact on the World Heritage Site. As per the Department of Archaeology (DoA), the mission will be arriving in Lumbini under its routine visit as per the decision of the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee held at Baku of the Republic of Azerbaijan, from June 30 to July 10 last year and at an invitation of the government. The mission is monitoring the construction of physical infrastructure inside as well as the surrounding areas of Lumbini. Besides, it will also study other threats such as the impact of climate change and air pollution in Lumbini. With the establishment of several industries, especially content factories, close to the World heritage Site, the level of air pollution in the area has been rising. Despite being a remarkable Buddhist pilgrimage, Lumbini has also undergone encroachment.

The mission is expected to be instrumental in dealing with various problems facing Lumbini as a World Heritage Site since it is going to point to several threats and recommend measures to tackle them. However, it is sad to note that Lumbini’s masterplan developed many years ago by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange has still been languished in neglect. The Government of Nepal, local governments, Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) and other responsible agencies must take up the suggestions to be forwarded by the UNESCO’s mission in order to develop Lumbini into a well-managed site. As the Lumbini Regional International Airport is about to come into operation, Lumbini is likely to emerge as an alluring tourist destination. Initiatives must be taken to complete the implementation of the master plan and develop Lumbini as a Buddhist pilgrimage hotspot.