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Buddha's Birthplace Threatened by Dam
The Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- Nepal has asked India to stop building a dam that threatens to flood Buddha's birthplace.

Nepal formally requested India to "stop the construction of the barrage,'' Minister for Water Resources Bijaya Gachchedar said Tuesday.

Four months ago, India began building the Rassiyal-Khurda-Lautan dam across the Danav River, just 655 feet from the Nepal-India border south of Lumbini.

Lumbini, 170 miles southwest of Nepal's capital of Katmandu, is where Buddha was said to have been born more than 26 centuries ago as Gautama Siddhartha. UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural arm, has recognized Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha and declared it a World Heritage Site.

The dam is meant to block and manage the flow of river water, mainly for irrigation, Indian officials have said.

The 20-foot high dam has come under fire from Buddhist scholars and Nepalese political parties. They accuse Hindu-dominated India of violating international laws that bar such constructions within five miles of an international border.

"The construction of this barrage is a well-designed conspiracy of India to inundate the birthplace of Lord Buddha and create another fake Lumbini somewhere in the Indian territory,'' said lawmaker Gokarna Bista of the United Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Nepal.

India has long claimed the actual birthplace of Buddha is in India and not Nepal. However, archeologists discovered in 1996 a commemorative pillar placed there by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 249 B.C. that marked the precise location.

UNESCO has said that Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world's great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centers from a very early period.


Updated: 2-8-2001

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