Heritage city’s march to ‘modernity’ stalled?
VARANASI: The millennia-old heritage city, once described by American author Mark Twain as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”, entered into an agreement with Japan’s ancient city Kyoto with a dream to become a modern 21st-century city even while retaining its rich tradition and cultural heritage.
Kyoto attracts about 50 million tourists every year while Varanasi receives about five million visitors. Both the cities have rich cultural heritage, with Kyoto being known as the “city of one thousand shrines” and Varanasi as the “temple town”.
It was envisaged that Kyoto’s initiatives and experiences would be formulated into concrete areas of cooperation for possible implementation in Varanasi, keeping in view its unique characteristics in collaboration with Kyoto. Kyoto’s initiatives include conservation of culture, radical changes in town planning, drastic reduction in garbage generation and enhancing the appeal of city’s cultural visibility through measures like banning outdoor advertisements, river front development.
The other measures taken on the lines of Kyoto included bio-energy applications and bio-fuel development, waste to energy, life cycle greenhouse gas inventory of household waste, application of ozone to municipal sewage treatment and waste water treatment.
But Varanasi, which is the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Modi, is yet to see any significant outcome of the pact, colloquially known as the Kashi-Kyoto agreement. The roads, waste and sewage management, all are in a shambles. “Things will be visible by November-December this year,” claimed mayor Ram Gopal Mohaley, who was part of the first delegation that visited Kyoto in April last year to study the technologies adopted by it to become a smart city by maintaining its heritage and culture.
Earlier, vice-mayor of Kyoto, Kenichi Ogasawara, had visited Varanasi with a delegation in October 2014, and assured that his city was all set to offer its expertise to conserve the heritage, upgrade the infrastructure and co-operate in the fields of art and culture in Varanasi.
In January 2015, the first meeting of the Steering Committee on Kyoto-Varanasi was held at New Delhi to discuss the possible areas of cooperation between Kyoto and Varanasi. Mayor Mohaley also attended the meeting that was chaired by the secretary, urban development. The 11-member steering committee was constituted by the urban development ministry to operationalize the partner city affiliation agreement between the two cities.
Besides acquiring Japanese technology in water, waste, sewer and transport management and means to preserve the cultural heritage of Varanasi, academic collaboration between the Kyoto University and the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was also emphasized.
Though nothing significant was done to accomplish most of the tasks, BHU signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kyoto and Shimane universities of Japan in August 2015 to promote research activities and to facilitate student and faculty exchange programmes. The five-year pact will allow exchange of faculty and research fellows, exchange of students and exchange of academic materials and publications and focus on science and technology.
BHU vice-chancellor Prof Tripathi said that the collaboration will help in attaining excellence in academic and research. Earlier in March 2015, the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development (IESD), BHU and Graduate School of Global Environmental studies (GSGES), Kyoto University signed an MoU as a part of the Kashi-Kyoto partnership.