The streets are being dug up to execute the power ministry’s mega plan to go completely underground with power cables.
Karsada is composting about 600 tonnes of garbage every day.
Of the 9,702 individual households aimed to be made open defecation free under Swachch Bharat targets, only about one-fourth are done so far. But Varanasi municipality said it will coverallremainingonesbyDecember 2017. The city has built 75 new public toilets,takingthetotalnumbertomore than 170. It has also planned 600 new urinalswithone-fifthof themforwomen. A Kashi toilet locator app is under development to help tourists locate nearest washrooms.
“The city is getting cleaner mainly because they are constantly telling us that we need to make Banaras clean — for us, and for the tourists who are important for the livelihoods of many in thiscity,”atouristguideof 10yearstold ET. “Tourists I work with keep talking about need for clean washrooms and dustbins, and that is beginning to happen now with PM Modi making it his mission,” the person said.
A lassi vendor near a dug-up road pointedtoaSintexdustbinnearhisstall and said, “They installed this dustbin here and just told me to ask all people to drop their garbage there. I am sitting herealldayandhavestartedreminding people. They don’t mind listening.”
Under the Centre’s Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana(HRIDAY),Rs90crorehasbeen allocated for the city. Mayor Ram Gopal Mohley said the ancient Durga Kund is being redone. Heritage poles arecomingupandfacadesof heritage building are being repaired.
Municipal commissioner Shrihari Pratap Shahi said 34 major roads are beingupgradedunderHRIDAY,86major points in the city, including Bharat MataMandirandQueensCollege,are beingimproved.“Bytheyearend,this should be completed. We are also going to start heritage music walk soon,” Shahi told ET.
The streets are being dug up to executethepowerministry’smegaplanto gocompletelyundergroundwithpower cables. One mohalla already has all its power cables underground, and if things do go to plan, by mid-2018 most of thediggingwouldhavegivenwayto colonies without power cables hanging overhead.
As much as people in the city complain about the inconvenience caused by the physical upheaval on in the city, most also feel optimistic about the end result. “This digging is endless and everywhere… I am only hoping this will end soon and this city will be liveable again,” said Satya Narayan Mishra who runsautoneartheghatarea.
The municipality is in a difficult spot over the sewage it generates, treats and dumps into Ganga. Estimates are that by 2018, it will be able to put in place a sewage treatment system to at least handle the sewage generated as on date by the city. Varanasi creates 330 mld sewage per year against a treatment capacity of no more than 110 mld — a figure unchanged since 1986.
A main sewer line that has been laid went too deep and will require to be pumped up to a location before it can be utilised. For this it needs 50-100 acres of land. The municipal commissioner conceded this was a problem, and said every effort is being made to acquire land at the earliest.
The Varanasi ring road project, meant to decongest the city, was to be completed by mid-2017, but that too is delayedduetolandacquisitiontrouble.
Varanasi district magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra, however, told ET that most of the issues had been sorted out following a recent favourable order by the High Court and things will get moving post elections.
Mayor Mohley, a BJP leader, blamed the state government for the delays. “The state government is not always cooperative. Still, we are hopeful by 2018, Varanasi will be a highly improved and beautiful city,” he told ET.
The DM, however, categorically rejected any coordination issues between the Centre and the state. “There is a lot getting done in a small city at the same time. You will see the first set of results by mid-2017 itself,” Mishra said.
As of now, the DM said, the biggest challenge in the city was traffic management and preventing encroachment — an inconvenience that will stay until ‘Model Varanasi’ struggles its way out of dug-up roads.