The previous executive committee of Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) had given a green light to build four luxury hotels and a five-star meditation centre inside a 256-acre Sarus crane sanctuary, threatening the majestic low-flying birds that have lived here for nearly three millennia.
When Venerable Metteyya, a 32-year-old Buddhist monk committed to protecting Sarus cranes, was appointed to head the LDT in 2017, he threw out the hotel proposal that would have destroyed the cranes’ wetland habitat. But he says the threat to the wetlands of Lumbini, the habitat of Sarus cranes and other species, is still there.
Metteyya was ousted from the LDT after KP Oli became Prime Minister for the simple reason that he was appointed by the previous government, but he fought his way back into office by filing a petition at the Supreme Court. He says he will not allow any business group to destroy the crane sanctuary as long as he is in office.
“The Sarus cranes will remain under threat unless the government realises that Lumbini is not just for humans but for all species,” the monk told us.
Metteyya has introduced a phased Lumbini Conservation Project to preserve greenery and sanctity of the Buddha’s birthplace. In the first phase, the Sarus sanctuary will be developed into a nature centre in collaboration with International Crane Foundation. George Archibald of the Foundation visited Lumbini this week, and he is mentoring the project.
In the second phase, the area envisioned by Kenzō Tange as a lush and green jungle will be restored as Lumbini Ban (forest) and the third phase will start cleaning up industries and making Lumbini pollution-free.
Says Metteyya: “We have an obligation to preserve Lumbini’s wetlands, trees, Sarus and greenery for the next generations, and this is possible only if everyone joins or supports our efforts.”
Read also: Cranes replace cranes in Buddha’s birthplace, Om Astha Rai