KATHMANDU: The Nepal government has begun foundational works to develop Gautam Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini, and its periphery area into a tourist hub within the next fiscal year, an official said Thursday.
Nepal’s Tourism Ministry, which has been working to implement the idea, said once Lumbini is made a tourist hub, the country could attract a large number of religious tourists, especially followers of Buddhism, and could bring a paradigm shift in Nepal’s economy.
“There are more than 1 billion Buddhists in the world. If we could only attract 20 percent of them to the holy land of Lumbini, it will be more than enough,” Purna Chandra Bhattarai, joint secretary at Nepal’s Tourism Ministry, told Xinhua by phone.
According to government statistics, around 800,000 foreign and local tourists visit Lumbini every year.
Bhattarai said neighboring China, the country with the largest population in the world, also has the largest number of Buddhists. “The tourist hub in Lumbini would draw hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists alone if we could market and promote Lumbini,” he said.
So far, tourists visiting Lumbini only tour around 1 km geographical breadth and 3 km geographical length within a single district, Kapilvastu.
However, the Lumbini tourist hub will consist of three districts, including Nawalparasi and Rupandehi, and would extend to an area of more than 100 km. “We have also prepared an initial blueprint of the project,” added Bhattarai.
Religious and archeologically significant sites including Ramnagar, Tilaurakot, Kudan, Niglihawa, Ashoka Pillar, Sagrahawa, Arorakot and Devdeha that are connected with Lord Buddha’s life will be the center of the hub, according to the initial blueprint.
“We are having initial rounds of discussions for the implementation of the plan,” Bhattarai added.
“By compiling the suggestions, we will prepare a detailed modality of the proposed tourist hub including the infrastructures to be set up, the potential number of tourists who can be drawn, the total expenses incurred in the project and the benefits the country can receive from the hub, among others.” PNA