Expressing his reservations on the idea of replicating Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati River Front Development Project on the Ganga in Varanasi, a former director of World Bank and also a former Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner, Keshav Varma, who was in the city on Friday, said Ganga would have to be cleaned up before such a project is taken up.
Varma was one of the founder members of the Sabarmati project and continues to be part of the Special Purpose Vehicle — Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation Ltd (SRFDCL), which is executing the project. Varma, a 1976-batch IAS officer from Gujarat cadre, recently retired as Sector Director for East Asia Pacific Urban, after a 16-year stint in the World Bank.
With the ongoing debate on whether it is feasible to replicate the project, which is among PM Narendra Modi’s pet projects, Varma told The Indian Express, “The Sabarmati River Front Development Project cannot be replicated in Varanasi. There is a huge urban problem there, just like it was on Huangpu River in China. It is a well-known fact that cleaning is a major issue in Ganga, with heaps of garbage and bodies floating in it…We need to create a sense of discipline among the residents there.”
Elaborating on his point, he said, “Riverfront and river basin are two different aspects. Ganga is more about its heritage and culture of ghats. Meanwhile, the riverfront is a commercially viable project and it does not require money to be poured into it. However, once developed, it should generate revenue through land development and land use.”
Sabarmati, unlike the Ganga, is not a perennial river. It divides Ahmedabad into two parts, culturally and historically, given that most parts of the original district, founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah, are on its east bank.
The present Municipal commissioner, Guruprasad Mohapatra, shared Varma’s views: “Ganga and Sabarmati could not be considered on an equal platform. Ganga is a perennial river that needs to be treated differently.”