NEPAL HAS ASKED INDIA TO stop building a dam that, the former claims, threatens to flood Buddha’s birthplace and violate international laws. The matter was discussed at an August meeting between Nepalese Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, with India’s Minister of External Affairs, Jaswant Singh.

Earlier this year, India began building the Rassiyal-Khurda-Lautan dam across the Danav river, just 200m from the Nepal-India border south of Lumbini – Buddha’s birthplace. Buddhist scholars and Nepalese political parties have criticised the construction of the 70m high dam. They accuse Hindu-dominated India of violating international laws that bar such constructions within 8km of an international border.

Lumbini, 273km southwest of Nepal’s capital of Katmandu, is said to be the place where Buddha was born more than 26 centuries ago as Gautama Siddhartha. UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural arm, has also recognised Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha and declared it a World Heritage Site.

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