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Lumbini Development Trust greenlights project bypassing procurement laws

Bypassing the public procurement regulations, the Lumbini Development Trust has inked a deal with the Moksha Foundation and The Promised Land Pvt Ltd for the excavation and construction of stupa within Gautam Buddha’s ossuary mausoleum in Nawalparasi’s Ramgram area. It has been revealed that the trust Vice-chair Lharkyal Lama initiated the Rs 7bn project despite objections from various authorities. Concerns over transparency arise as the project proceeds without due procedures

Lumbini Development Trust greenlights project bypassing procurement laws

The Lumbini Development Trust has entered into an agreement with a private company, bypassing the public procurement regulations, for the excavation and construction of a stupa within Gautam Buddha’s ossuary mausoleum in the Nawalparasi Ramagrama area. 

The agreement includes the acquisition of 116 bighas of private land and a 99-year lease on 120 bighas. 

Lharkyal Lama, the Vice-chairperson of the trust, initiated the process despite reservations from the Department of Archaeology, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the Ministry of Finance.

According to the terms of the agreement, the excavation of the ossuary and the construction of the stupa, Buddhist monasteries and other structures representing different countries will take place in Ramagrama. 

“To facilitate this, approximately 116 bighas of private land, 75  kathas of the land owned by the trust, and 10 kathas of land owned by the Department of Archaeology will be integrated and leased to the private company,” the trust says.

According to the agreement, the trust will be responsible for acquiring the land from locals, while the Moksha Foundation will unify it, and the Promised Land Pvt Ltd will manage it. 

The agreement was finalized without a competitive process among companies. The Moksha Foundation, reported to have an office in Singapore, is identified as the primary investor. The estimated cost of the project is around Rs 7bn.

Nikesh Adhikari, the owner of the Promised Land, is the son of Sharada Prasad Adhikari, the landlord of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Khumaltar-based residence.

It is said though the project was in the pipeline for some years, progress was hindered due to a lack of transparency in investment. The project was greenlit after Lama assumed the position of Vice-chair of the trust on 6 Aug 2023.


Lama is a controversial figure who in the past has been charged with various crimes, such as illegal possession of firearms, possession of dual citizenship and passport, and accumulation of illegal wealth. He is also a former lawmaker of the CPN (Maoist Center). 

On 12 Dec 2023, Prime Minister Dahal himself had laid the foundation stone for the stupa construction and excavation project at Ramagrama. The event, co-organized by the Promised Land and Ramagrama Municipality, saw the prime minister pledging to restore, conserve and develop the Ramagrama Stupa area.

Recent revelations indicate that the project is being initiated without following due procedure.

As per the agreement, the land in the Ramagrama area is leased until the year 2179 BS. Despite this, the agreement lacks clarity on how public land will be acquired and what preconditions will be set. This raises concerns about the transparency and legitimacy of the project.

In transactions involving public financial administration, obtaining prior consent from the Ministry of Finance is mandatory. For this project, the ministry expressed disagreement, citing the absence of a clear proposal regarding the investment reliability and background of the involved companies.

Additionally, the Department of Archaeology conveyed a letter to the Trust, emphasizing that no agreement should be made concerning heritage excavation and the construction of physical structures. As the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Archaeology expressed reservations, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation also advised the Trust against proceeding with the project. 

Gyanin Rai, the trust’s spokesperson, did not respond to the ApEx request for comment. Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Sudan Kirati was also out of reach. 

Lama issued a statement late Monday, defending his involvement in the project. The statement reads, “Neither the Trust has the authority to acquire private lands, nor does the Trust have the funds to do so. No steps have been initiated regarding this project since I assumed the Office.” However, Lama did not respond to the ApEx request for comment.

Moksha Foundation had submitted a proposal on 21 April 2023 saying that they will partner with the Promised Land to invest in the project. The Promised Land also committed to guarantee the investment in a letter dated 30 April 2023.

According to Suresh Suras Shrestha, the head of the Culture Division at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the current situation warrants a halt in the process. 

“There were numerous issues in the proposal, and both the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of Finance have advised against moving forward,” he says. “The ministry and the archaeology department will now engage in discussions to determine the next step.”