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The development plan also includes solid waste and sewage management to clean up the Ganga. Photo: Mint
The development plan also includes solid waste and sewage management to clean up the Ganga. Photo: Mint

Centre to roll out plan to spruce up Varanasi

The plan finds metro rail services unviable for the city, suggests BRT corridor to improve public transport

New Delhi: The urban development ministry is making plans for the development of Varanasi—the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi—after the National Democratic Alliance came to power three months ago.

A delegation of the ministry visited the city on 25 August to study the ground situation.

The plan, initiated by former urban development secretary Sudhir Krishna before he retired on 31 July, says metro rail services are not viable for the holy city, suggesting the administration promote a bus rapid transit corridor (BRT) to strengthen public transport and decongest roads.

“I had visited Varanasi in June and had held detailed discussions with the city administration on the development of Varanasi. The plan was also sent to the Uttar Pradesh government but there has been no response from the state government yet," said Krishna.

The development plan also includes solid waste and sewage management to clean up the Ganga. The report submitted by Krishna suggests that a Ganga clean-up, which was promised by Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election manifesto, will not be possible until the problems of sewage and solid waste management are addressed in Varanasi and the other major towns and cities located on the banks of the Ganga.

A top urban development ministry official who requested anonymity said that the ministry was working on a plan for the rejuvenation of Varanasi, which would be out soon. “We will let you know once we are done," the official added.

However, the task of cleaning up and developing Varanasi is not going to be easy, as most projects on solid waste management, sewerage and landfills are delayed. The land allotted for solid waste management is under dispute and there is a long legal battle ahead for the authorities.

“Varanasi generates 300 million litres of sewerage per day and the capacity of the city to treat sewerage is only 100 litres per day. The two projects of 260 million litre under Jawaharlal Nehru national urban renewal mission (JNNURM), a flagship urban renewal mission of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, are on hold because of legal disputes and the authorities are trying to solve the problem so that the projects can go ahead. The government is negotiating with the farmers for the land," said Krishna in his report.

Another problem for the city administration is that the majority of households are not connected to the sewerage. “There are nearly 2.4 lakh household in Varanasi and majority of them, at least 80%, are not connected," Krishna added.

The city is also has a shortage of landfills; the present ones are filled to overflowing. The city generates 600 tonnes of solid waste daily.

Creating a new landfill for the city has been impeded due to a dispute over the allotted land with farmers.

The city administration is also faced with scarcity of water caused by wastage.

A study by the urban development ministry found residents of Varanasi get more than double the supply of water they need for their daily use. “The assessment is that city needs 155 million litre per capita, but people are using 330 million litres a day. Out of the total supply, 125 million litres is supplied from Ganga and 205 million litres comes from borewells. Yet there is shortage of water because 30% of the water is being wasted. Because of the excessive use of borewells, the groundwater level in the city has dropped, too," said Krishna.

Debolina Kundu, associate professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, said solid waste and water management in the city should take place on a war footing to clean up the river, as the city is important for pilgrims and tourists. “Water front development is important from the touristic and pilgrimage point of view," she said and added that traffic management via smart technologies could also be one of the strategies for development. “The municipal administration should be strengthened to provide services in an efficient manner."

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