Kashi hopes for a clean break from old mess | lucknow | Hindustan Times
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Kashi hopes for a clean break from old mess

Traffic congestion, messy lanes, electricity wires hanging on poles, haphazard parking, potholed and semi-encroached roads are common problems in Kashi, troubling locals, domestic and foreign tourists alike.

lucknow Updated: Jul 20, 2017 17:38 IST
Sudhir Kumar
Once the project takes shape, major roads will have heritage lights, and the buildings will have murals depicting the specialty of Varanasi and its legendary figures.
Once the project takes shape, major roads will have heritage lights, and the buildings will have murals depicting the specialty of Varanasi and its legendary figures.(Rajesh Kumar/HT Photo)

The oldest living city renews its battle with civic woes every day.

Traffic congestion, messy lanes, electricity wires hanging on poles, haphazard parking, potholed and semi-encroached roads are common problems here, troubling locals, domestic and foreign tourists alike.

But all these problems will be a thing of the past when the smart city project gets off the ground in the prime minister’s parliamentary constituency, the Varanasi Municipal Corporation (VMC) authorities say. Once the project takes shape, major roads will have heritage lights, and the buildings will have murals depicting the specialty of Varanasi and its legendary figures.

Mayor Ramgopal Mohale says, “The smart city project will bring a positive change across the city. Traffic jam, unruly parking, encroachment on roads and all other problems will come to an end after completion of the smart city project.”

On May 23, the VMC signed an agreement with a consortium of three companies for implementation of the smart city project.

The three firms are: Rudrabhishek Enterprises Pvt Ltd (REPL), Grant Thornton and ABN Consulting.

The smart city project aims at infrastructure development, setting up integrated traffic management system (ITMS) to rid the ancient city of traffic congestion and revival and rejuvenation of the soul of the heritage city. There is a need for Rs 300 crore to ensure smooth implementation of ITMS, under which there will be a state-of-the art control room equipped with CCTVs at all intersections across the city and major spots.

“Consultants have been instructed to complete preparation of a detailed project report on various components such as water supply, sewerage systems, intelligent traffic management system, smart security system, heritage conservation, and tourism promotion activities in order that smart city project start taking shape here and Varanasi turn into a smart city,” said Mohale.

Grant Thornton has been tasked with ensuring implementation of smart traffic management system equipped with a control room connected with CCTVs at all intersections across the city. It will focus on developing of multi-model transport system to free the city from traffic congestion.

The REPL will look after infrastructure development and ABN will devise a plan on conservation of heritage sites to rejuvenate the soul of the heritage city. Rejuvenation efforts include beautification of the sites with focus on maintaining and reviving their retro look.

Equipping Cantonment and city railway station with smart facilities, development of multilevel parking at five locations in the city, expansion of sports stadium, multi model transport hubs, improvement of water supply system are also part of the project.

The Varanasi smart city project covers an area of 1389 acres, including all major temples, important heritage sites in old city, iconic ghats, cultural spots and narrow lanes famous for the antiquity as well as for Banarasi cuisine. The project is worth Rs 2520 crore. The companies will focus on area-specific focused development with emphasis on socio-economic growth.

It also includes retrofitting of old city. Consultants have started drawing the detailed project.

Rajesh Kumar, professor at department of civil engineering, IIT-BHU, says, “Smart city has three major components—smart buildings, smart roads and integrated smart traffic management system. To make city smart, authorities concerned need to focus on these areas.”

Kumar clarifies smart features of all three components. “A smart building is the one equipped with rainwater harvesting system and generates up to 70 of energy its uses. It has proper ventilation and is designed in such a way that the building doesn’t use electricity during day hours, especially for light.”

Smart road concept suggests separate tracks for cycle users and pedestrians with shining signage along the roads about major spots guiding visitors towards their destination. An integrated traffic management system with effective monitoring and maintenance is needed to manage the traffic, Kumar said.

To achieve the goal, Kumar observes locals need to be engaged and motivated to come forward for joining the government efforts in this direction. Their cooperation and support is first and foremost requirement to make the city smart. Government has floated the idea and is doing its part. Locals’ support will help in materialising Varanasi smart city plan within a set time frame.

Cleanliness has improved but the city has miles to go on this front. In the past, several campaigns together failed in changing the mindset of a large number of locals who dumpe waste in lanes, on roads and at ghats, though bins are available.

A force of over thousands of sanitation workers carries out cleaning during night. In recent sanitation survey, Varanasi ranked 32 in the country. The VMC is aiming for the number one spot.

Arvind Kumar Mishra, a local, hopes the city will have improved sewage system and other facilities.

He, however, says putting unruly traffic on path will be really an uphill task.

During his visit to Varanasi, urban development minister Suresh Khanna told authorities that funds will be made available soon after passing of the state budget.

Smart sewage system

The project also focuses on sanitation and developing a smart sewage system in order to do away with water-logging during rains and choked drains in certain pockets of the city even during normal days. The city has around 150-year-old sewage system.

The city produces over 300 MLD of sewage daily. However, it can treat only 110 MLD with three sewage treatment plants (STPs) at Deenapur, Banaras Hindu University and Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW). The remaining 190 MLD untreated sewage empties into the Ganga from over 40 drains in the city.

In addition, an STP of 140 MLD capacity is under-construction at Deenapur. Likewise, a 50 MLD capacity STP is to be constructed at Ramana village. The Centre has approved the project.