Fearing unrest, UP govt scales down Maitreya Buddha project

Following resistance from farmers, the UP government has decided to de-notify about 500 acres of land from the Maitreya Buddha project in Kushinagar district. The project, which was originally slated to be constructed on 800 acres of land, will now be constructed on only 273 acres.

Officials said the Maitreya Foundation had agreed to minor changes in the project. The district administration has been asked to start the de-notification process. The project is supported by Indonesia and Japan-based Maitreya Foundation. In 2005, the Foundation decided to build the project in Kushinagar district in UP, a prime centre of Buddhist pilgrimage.

The centrepiece of the project will be a giant 500-feet, sitting Buddha statue, the largest in the world. Spread over 800 acres, the project was to include a museum complex, temples, audio-visual theatre, library and hospitality services, set amid lush green parks and meditation pavilions.

The state government had agreed to provide land for the project, estimated to cost around $195 million. But later, the Foundation said it could pay for the land.

The site includes 697 acres of agriculture land of 2,900 farmers. Of them, around 600 had agreed to hand over their land. The rest have been running a peaceful dharna against the acquisition under the banner of Bhumi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti.

On Monday, officials of the Foundation visited the project site and later met state government officials. Sources sides expressed the desire to start the project in this financial year.

"This is the last year for this government as elections are due in 2012 and the chief minister certainly wants this project to start in her regime. Also, in wake of the farmer's agitation in Bhatta and Parsaul, we do not want any more such agitations," said a state official.

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