UP loses Buddha project to Bihar

After a nine-year wait for land to set up the Maitreya Buddha project in Kushinagar, a dejected International Maitreya Foundation has decided to move the project to Bodhgaya in Bihar.

The project with an estimated cost of $195 million included building a 500-feet tall bronze-plated statue of Buddha as its centrepiece apart from a monastery, library and facilities like an audio-visual theatre, hospitality services, lush green parks and meditation pavilions. A hospital and a school for children from nearby villages were also part of the plan.

The spiritual director of the project, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, in the Maitreya Project Trust website has said, "For the past nine years, we have worked hard with UP government to locate the project in Kushinagar. But because of very difficult issues regarding land acquisition, with the approval of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we have now decided to build the Maitreya statue in Bodhgaya." Kushinagar has a special place in Buddhist history as it is here that Buddha gave his last sermon.

The state government had earmarked about 660 acre for the project but the farmers in the locality were reluctant to give away their land even after the SP government hiked price offered from Rs 300 per square metre to Rs 940. It was found that only 260 acres could be garnered for the project.

"We started talks on compensation with the farmers. Nearly 40 of them have accepted the offer but over 1,000 has refused," said Rigzian Sampheal, Kushinagar District Magistrate.

He said the project promoters have not informed the administration about the cancellation of the project so far.

Meanwhile, Rinpoche has on the project website said that owing to restrictions in Bodhgaya the height of the statue will brought down to 150 feet. Nita Ing has replaced Peter Kedge as the new director of the project.

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