The government must undertake development activities for its citizensThe problems road conditions are creating for Lumbini’s tourism year goals cannot be ignored.
With Visit Nepal 2020 two months away, there is both much anxiety and excitement amongst the citizenry what Nepal’s third large-scale tourism promotional campaign has to offer. The campaign envisions drawing two million foreign tourists and earning Rs200 billion. While the authorities in the centre have been fixated on Visit Nepal 2020, Lumbini, a popular tourist destination in Province 5, is currently observing Lumbini Travel Year 2076. But according to reports, while the provincial government has trumpeted publicity, little effort has been made in terms of improving the roads in the area. Regrettably, even though six months have passed on the Nepali calendar year, Lumbini hasn’t seen an increase in the number of tourists. This is because the roads leading to Buddha’s birthplace and other sites of historical importance await construction, facelift or expansion.
As a result, the most used road to Lumbini—that charts Belahiya-Bhairahawa-Lumbini—is in a state of disrepair. The two other road sections—Taulihawa and Lumbini and Butwal-Behtari-Lumbini—aren’t any better either. Although the roads were dug up two years ago since they were in need of reconstruction, their conditions have not improved with potholes all along the stretch.
Here’s the thing: there's a charade that happens before important state visits and events. But on the rest of the days, cities and their infrastructural needs are disregarded. The hurried way in which Kathmandu got a makeover a week before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived is a case in point. There was a frenetic rush to patch giant potholes that punctuate Kathmandu roads. Streets were blacktopped overnight, colourful gates were erected, parks were built, and flowerpots dotted various junctions. There is nothing wrong with beautifying cities. But what is wrong is when it happens because we want to create a false image of ourselves when guests arrive. Be it road maintenance or keeping the parks green and clean, these are the basic things the authorities concerned must take care of regularly. But soon blacktops on the roads will start chipping off, there will be potholes and the parks will turn dirt and dingy.
Same is the case with Lumbini. The popular tourist destination is now launching campaigns to preserve Buddhist rituals and publicise Buddha’s birth site. But this alone is unlikely to increase the number of tourists. The roads have been neglected until now but most probably, right before Visit Nepal 2020 kicks off, the streets too will be maintained and potholes will be patched up. Working at the last minute almost seems like the most natural thing to do by now. But the idea of development needs to be sustainable. More importantly, it should not be pursued because we want to show something to someone. The government must undertake development activities for its citizens who pay their taxes diligently.
Lumbini Travel Year 2076 is ongoing and Visit Nepal 2020 is just around the corner. Learning from its past mistakes, the provincial government must take stock of the problems road conditions are creating for Lumbini’s tourism year goals and not let the same fate dictate what will happen next year in 2020.