News UNESCO’s efforts in conserving the cultural heritage in the Greater Lumbini Area

Members of the International Scientific Committee gathered recently in Lumbini to review project activities and coordinate various initiatives carried out in the Greater Lumbini Area.

This meeting was held as part of the Japanese Government sponsored UNESCO project for strengthening conservation and management of Lumbini, which is being implemented in collaboration with Nepal’s Department of Archaeology (DoA) and the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT). It brought together national authorities, donors and international and national experts in archaeology, conservation, urban planning, environment, tourism and heritage management. Representatives from the Buddhist community provided further understanding of the needs of Buddhist pilgrims and communities. The Committee provided a platform for all concerned stakeholders, making sure that the major interests of the site are not in conflict with each other, but develop in harmony.

Professor Robin Coningham, UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage at Durham University, explained on-site the archaeological achievements and challenges at the Lumbini World Heritage Site and Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu, the remains of the capital of the ancient Shakya Kingdom, where Lord Buddha lived until the age of 29. The Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu Heritage Festival showcased the intangible heritage of local communities, such as basket weaving, pottery, and local Tharu music and dances. Drawing- and speech competitions were organized for local school students.

Professor Coningham highlighted, “The results of the geophysical survey and excavations at Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu have revealed one of the best-preserved urban forms of an Early Historic City in South Asia, whose rural hinterland is almost entirely undamaged.”

Venerable Metteyya, Vice-Chair of LDT, shared the Government’s plan for the long-term sustainable development of the Greater Lumbini Area, with a focus on heritage protection.

Damodar Gautam, Director-General of the DoA, stated, “The Archaeological Risk Map of the Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu site generated by the team will guide future development of this important site.”

Recommendations approved by the Committee include urging the Government to declare the Lumbini World Heritage Site, Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu, and Ramagrama as Protected Monument Zones. Heritage Impact Assessments should be conducted before every new development project and prior to issuing tender at sites in the entire Greater Lumbini Area. The natural surroundings of Lumbini should be better protected. It is also recommended to take practical measures to conserve the archaeological remains in Lumbini, including the Mayadevi Temple structure and to reduce water penetration inside it. The Committee endorsed the request for continuation of the project to align with the process of Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu’s World Heritage nomination.

Yuriko Akiyama, First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Nepal, thanked UNESCO and the Government of Nepal for preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of Lumbini.

Suresh Acharya, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, thanked the Government of Japan and requested continuation of the project, focused on the World Heritage nomination of the Tilaurakot site.

In a follow-up of the Committee, Professor Yukio Nishimura from Tokyo University facilitated a workshop on the World Heritage nomination process, focusing on Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu, which provided valuable information on the procedures, as well as examples from Japan and other archaeological sites in South Asia.