The Centre has roped in Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University) to redevelop Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, into a smart city. The institutes have been tasked with chalking out a plan to renovate the holy city while preserving its heritage.
IIT Kharagpur has been carrying out a research survey in the city since 2014, under the HRD Ministry’s Sandhi project which conducts scientific evaluation of the country’s heritage. The programme has now been linked to the government’s smart city plan. Professors involved in the project say that the research being carried out in Varanasi, and the road map thus created, will be used as a blueprint for all future smart cities in the country.
12 departments within IIT Kharagpur, including architecture, civil, geology and geophysics, computer science and electronics, electrical and mechanical and the RCG School of Infrastructure Design and Management, are working on the project. The institutes have also collaborated with Varanasi Nagar Nigam.
“We are developing an overall action plan. One of the sub-projects that we have begun work on is under the Uchatara Abhiyan and involves the complete pedestrianisation of certain areas in the city,’’ says Professor Joy Sen, of the RCG School of Infrastructure Design and Management, who is heading the project.
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world alongside Alexandria, Luxor and Faiyum and the planning is “sensitive”, says the team.
“We are looking at how the city has evolved and survived for 3,000 years. Geo-exploration is an important part of the project. We are using sub-surface data to look at how the city will survive in the future. For this we have dug out 91 borewells and collected 6,000 kg of sediment samples down to a depth of 100 meters,’’says principal investigator Professor Abhijeet Mukherjee from IIT Kharagpur’s Geology and Geophysics department. “The samples will help in determining engineering properties and the kind of construction that would be permissible,” he adds.
“Most modern cities don’t last longer than 300-400 years. Varanasi has lasted for 3,000. Archeologists in the team have been carrying out excavations and we have for the first time established that the city existed between 800-1000 BC. The team has found material dating back to two thousand years in and around the Kashi Vishwanath temple. As the Harappan civilization declined, Varanasi came up,’’explains Prof Mukherjee.
The team is working on a plan that accommodates modern development projects such as the metro rail and sub-way systems into the city’s landscape, while preserving its ancient heritage.
“The city’s future development will depend on the sustainable use of natural (groundwater) resources, mitigation of flooding hazard and an understanding of the river dynamics and how these may evolve in response to future climate change,” notes Mukherjee. To facilitate the research the team is carrying out extensive surveys of the Ganga as well as the groundwater available in the city, including the level of contamination and pollution.
Sampling of water from the Ganga at “12 strategic ghats” has been going on for the past one-and-a- half years. Every Sunday, a sample of water is taken from each of these ghats and examined.
Recently, along with Intel Industries, the professors have placed chemical sensors in the water, which transmits back data every 15-20 minutes. “The government has been concerned about the quality of water in Varanasi. At some point in the future we will be able to present the data on display boards in the city. This will give visitors the option of choosing the ghats they want to visit based on the data provided,’’ says the professor.