Interview: Amrit Shresthacharya
Retired Engineer who was involved in the initial design of the Kenzo Tange Master Plan
How did you get involved in Lumbini and with the Kenzo Tange Master Plan?
I was an engineer with the Building Department of the Government of Nepal that was responsible for infrastructure development in Nepal, and was appointed to be the member-secretary of the technical sub-committee when the Kenzo Tange Master Plan was being implemented. I served as the coordinating person for UNDP when they contracted engineering firms to design components of the Master Plan.
I did not get a chance to interact much with Kenzo Tange but worked with his chief associate architect. I worked in Lumbini for 15 years until 1990.
How important do you think it was for Lumbini to have the Kenzo Tange Master Plan?
Very important, but it is still a challenge to implement it. The Master Plan and each of its zones, components and units, were designed by Kenzo Tange in accordance to the Buddhist philosophy of human life. The three zones, starting from the New Lumbini Village to the Monastic Enclaves and up to the Sacred Garden, were planned to provide the experience to visitors from moving from the present life to a transitional life and finally to a spiritual life.
What would have happened to Lumbini if the Kenzo Tange Master Plan was not formulated?
Without the Master Plan, Lumbini would have been confined within the premises of the Mayadevi Temple because lands around the temple were owned privately. It would have been surrounded by unplanned buildings, restaurants and constructions. Even with the Master Plan, the restricted zone outside the 1x3 mile area is being developed in an unplanned manner. The restricted zone is no longer restricted, and hotels are being built without proper planning in accordance to the Kenzo Tange Master Plan. The Master Plan had been violated, and I only hope that it would not be further violated.
Why has the Master Plan been violated? What should be done?
The violations have been in a whim. Every time I meet the member-secretary of Lumbini Development Trust (LDT), I request him to read his appointment letter which states that one of the responsibilities of the LDT is proper implementation of the Master Plan. I have made requests to ensure that the Master Plan is not violated further. If needed, we can review the Master Plan. A comprehensive review can make suggestions for changes in a planned way, which could be implemented after approval from all concerned stakeholders.
How important was UN agencies’ involvement in Lumbini?
UNDP has been the backbone of all the development in Lumbini. Not only in the designing of the Kenzo Tange Master Plan, but also in its implementation. UNDP provided continuous technical support, and the UN is still needed for the completion of the rest of the Master Plan. UNDP has invested a lot in Lumbini, and UNESCO has always been a supportive agency.
What role should UN agencies take on for the development of Lumbini?
I have always said that UN has played an important role for the development of Lumbini, and their involvement is still much needed in Lumbini. UN could presently get involved in reviewing the Master Plan which would take into account the current needs and challenges of Lumbini.
Interviewed on 29 September 2012 at his office in Anamnagar