When Uttar Pradesh’s Rs 5.50-lakh crore annual budget was tabled on May 26, one allocation caught the eye — Rs 500 crore for a 4-lane road in Varanasi (“in the opposite side of the Ganga ghat”) aimed at streamlining the flow of people visiting the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the river bank for the evening aarti.
The Indian Express, however, has learnt that the road is part of a larger project conceptualised by the state government to transform the river bank opposite the old ghats. If it comes to fruition, it could mean that visitors need not even enter the lanes of the old city in order to visit temples and other popular sites.
For starters, the state estimates a spend of around Rs 2,372 crore for the project (Rs 500 crore was just an initial budgetary allocation). And the road spoken about in the budget would be an elevated one, running 8 km from Rajghat bridge to Ramnagar, with a large parking facility, food courts and even a helipad.
This elevated road would then be connected to the popular sites — such as the Dashashwamedh Ghat and the Ravidas Temple — on the other side of the river through three “finger roads” or bridges.
So, if all goes to plan, visitors can directly reach this elevated road, park their vehicles and then cross the Ganga with a walk on the finger roads. The proposed helipad would make it easier for tourists to directly land near this road and follow the same route.
The budget document, while allocating the fund for the road, had stated: “For the convenience of Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Darshan and Ganga Arti Darshan, a provision of Rs 500 crore is proposed for the construction of a 4-lane model road from Rajghat bridge to Ramnagar in the opposite direction of Ganga Ghat”.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had then justified the outlay citing the increased footfall of pilgrims, particularly in light of the development around the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
It is learnt that the government’s concept also speaks of a “suspension bridge” as a part of this project, which alone is estimated to cost Rs 368 crore.
With plans still at a preliminary stage, the government is now looking to hire an agency to carry out a feasibility and technical study to prepare a detailed project report.
The plan could necessitate the acquisition of about 27 hectares of land, which will likely cost over Rs 370 crore alone, it is learnt.
A senior government source said that the project, at a later stage, will aim at transforming the entire Ganga riverfront, even providing water sport facilities.
“This project would connect old Kashi to new and would be a perfect amalgamation of modern connectivity to the age-old city,” said this source.