“We have built 1.22 lakh toilets for the Kumbh, which has been registered by the Guinness World Records as the biggest sanitation drive in the world,” said State Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh at the IE Round Table Conference here on Tuesday.
Ahead of the mela, infrastructure got a major boost in Prayagraj with ‘264 new streets and 10 flyovers’, he added.
Singh, who was the chief guest at the event held at Taj Mahal Lucknow with the theme of the upcoming Kumbh Mela, said, “In the wake of Kumbh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took a brave call by allowing a massive demolition drive in the city of Prayagraj wherein encroached land was reclaimed. The drive saw zero political interference and the citizens also cooperated.”
About improving the connectivity to Prayagraj, Singh said, “By the time Kumbh starts on January 15, the city will be connected to 13 places through air route. We also looked at ways to destress the railway network. In order to manage the passenger traffic due to special trains being introduced for the Kumbh, we have diverted several trains to three other stations to avert any mishap.”
Singh, who was nominated as minister in-charge during the visit of 70 Heads of Missions to Prayagraj on December 15 ahead of the Kumbh, said, “It was a beautiful moment to see 70 flags, along with the Indian flag, unfurled at the Kumbh site.”
During his 20-minute address, Singh emphasised how their government is focusing on cleanliness during the mega event, where as many as 15 crore visitors are expected.
After his address, a collector’s edition magazine, titled Prayagraj Kumbh 2019, was launched by Singh and Lucknow Mayor Sanyukta Bhatia. The magazine enlists various aspects of the mega event, which is being organised on an unprecedented scale by the state government after the Kumbh Mela’s inclusion in UNESCO’s list for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
It also explores why the event is held at Triveni Sangam, various sects that participate in the Kumbh and its spiritual significance.
The launch was marked by a panel discussion on “How to plan for the largest human gathering on earth”. The panelists included Awanish Kumar Awasthi, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Tourism, UP; photographer Prashant Panjiar; food consultant and writer Sangeeta Khanna; and Shoba Mohan, founder, RARE India. During the hour-long discussion, moderated by The Indian Express Principal Correspondent Pooja Pillai, each of the speakers brought in their area of expertise while speaking about the massive arrangements for the event.
When asked by a co-panelist about arrangements for waste management in the wake of the huge gathering, Awasthi said, “We have made efforts to ban all kinds of plastic in the Mela area, even though it may be extremely difficult to achieve.” He explained how the state government has devised ways to control plastic waste. “For instance, the amount of milk used and consumed at the Kumbh is unimaginable. In that context, we will run a scheme where empty milk pouches can be bought back by the vendor for a rupee or two,” he added.
He admitted that waste segregation at the Kumbh may not be possible, but all efforts were being made towards waste management —- “garbage will be processed, 20,000 dustbins will be placed at the Mela area and there are 1.22 lakh toilets for people to use”.