The Modi government has finalized an “exhaustive makeover blueprint” for the city, its spiritual and religious appeal long marred by the polluted Ganga, crumbling heritage, congested traffic and the all-pervasive filth.
Officials privy to the makeover plans told IANS that Modi recently took detailed presentations from different ministries on their proposals for Varanasi — and approved some. The prime minister made it clear that whatever is promised should be finished within the given deadline, said a source present at the meeting.
To begin with, a statutory Master Plan is being worked upon.
The meeting in New Delhi was attended among others by Uttar Pradesh BJP president Laxmikant Bajpayi and Varanasi Mayor Ram Gopal Mohle as well as party legislators from Varanasi.
It was decided that Varanasi be developed like a metro city with a major overhaul of its arterial roads and transport system.
While poring through various proposals, Modi stressed the need to preserve the “pauranik swaroop” (ancient ethos) of Varanasi – considered the world’s oldest living city now with 1.2 million people.
Other than constructing some new flyovers, the officials have been asked to work on a possible mono rail, improvement of the bus network, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) a la the one in Ahmedabad.
The union urban development ministry has been told to rope in the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA).
The Prime Minister’s Office has directed officials to ensure that water bodies in the city – there are many – like wells and ponds are re-energized and conserved as heritage.
A presentation made for Modi said the ancient landmarks and the heritage buildings would be lit up with LEDs and high power focus lights.
Riverfronts have been proposed at Varuna and Asi rivers, which for now look more like drains.
Urban Development Minister Nitin Gadkari is learnt to be spearheading the plans for Kashi — as Varanasi has been traditionally known — and giving critical inputs to Modi.
An exhaustive plantation drive has been planned after the widening of roads and laying an outer ring road surrounding the city.
The central government plans to do away with the overhead wiring and lay fresh, new, weather-proof underground power lines.
State BJP leader Bajpayi told IANS that he was “awe struck” at the “level of commitment Modiji” has for Varanasi, visited by millions of devout Hindus and others every year.
The urban development ministry’s proposal also includes an ambitious plan of utilizing the waste water for non-potable purposes like watering plants and irrigation.
The government is pushing for setting up a plant do away with municipal solid waste.
Modi has told officials to work on the possibility of raising four satellite towns: Shivpur, Babatpur, Kashi and Sarnath.
“Other that the visual revival of the city, Modi is very keen to make the region a mini-economic powerhouse by giving it infrastructure and trading opportunities,” an official told IANS.