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City Infrastructure Issues And Challenges

Updated: April 18, 2015 2:40 pm

The paper tries to catch on the infrastructural problems that is been faced by the city and its people as of today. It also tries to find out the effectiveness of the strategies which were developed by the Municipal Corporation (MCV) of Varanasi in a workshop in the year 2005-06. The paper utilizes a questionnaire which is based on the issues that were proposed during the MCV workshop. The questionnaire is likert scale based and was served to 500 respondents (the sample size) who were the residents of Varanasi. The findings of the study suggest that people especially in the old city still are struggling with those same old problems of over congested roads due to badly placed bus stands and auto stands causing same old long traffic jams and adding to it are the wrongly placed transformers and electricity poles the further disturb the proper flow of traffic. Still the major roads are being used as bazaar streets and consist of various small scale industries

What makes a great city? It is an insisting question because by 2030, 5 billion people-60 per cent of the world’s population-will live in cities, compared with 3.6 billion today, turbo-charging the world’s economic growth. But for the leaders who govern cities, the challenges are tough. Those in many developing nations have to cope with urbanization on an unprecedented scale. Those in developed nations, where growth prospects are weaker, wrestle with aging infrastructure and stretched budgets. All are fighting to secure or maintain their competitiveness and hence the livelihoods of residents. All are conscious of the quality of life enjoyed by present citizens. And all are aware of the environmental legacy they will leave citizens of the future if they fail to find more sustainable, resource-efficient ways of expanding their local economies and managing their cities.

A crain dismantles the Samne ghat construction bridge for the monsoon season in Varanasi.

A city’s performance has to be measured in a way that reflects all of these concerns-the strength of the economy, social conditions, and the environment. Various studies have looked at these three measures of performance either separately or together, and ranked cities accordingly. But while such studies can help us understand the elements of a great city, they do not tell us what city leaders actually do to make their cities great. What drives a city’s performance? Moreover, an absolute measure of performance can overlook the fact that each city has a different starting point; a relatively low ranking for a city that had an extremely low starting point would mask the efforts and innovations that helped such a city make significant progress. Therefore, to understand performance, it is important to consider not only current measures but also the trajectory of change.

The biggest challenge with India is the rapid urbanization. Urbanization is an inevitable process due to high pressure on land, low agriculture income, excessive population growth and the difference between rural and urban living standards. As per 2011 census approximately 31% of total pcpulation of India is residing in urban areas and it is expected to reach 40% by the year 2050. Urban areas playa vital role in Indian’s socio-economic transformation and contribute 50-55% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (census, 20llf In order to cope with massive problems that have emerged as a result of rapid urban growth, it has become imperative to draw up a coherent policy/ strategy to implement projects for infrastructural improvements in cities on mission mode.

The city of Varanasi is no different when it comes to these issues. It is projected that by 202l the population of the city will cross 2.5 million! There is, moreover, an estimated 30,000 daily floating population in the city. The riverfront and old city heritage zone of the city is densely populated (above 500 persons/ per ha), and it is here that development pressures are altering irreversibly the socio-cultural fabric of the city. With population growth, is increasing the demand for utilizing every inch of free space, including gardens. This is creating pressures for substituting existing spacious architectural forms with optimal space utilization plans. Parks are becoming smaller and giving way to concrete residential or commercial structures. The modification of urban spaces in the old city center of Varanasi could also negatively alter the religious and cultural life for which the city is sacred and destroy the tourist attractions-both of which are the major sources of earning for its population.

City workers drag a cow into a vehicle for its removal from the city center.

Traffic has always been a big problem for this city. Increasing traffic and increasing population is leading to traffic congestion, not only at peak hours but at most hours of the day. This leads to noise pollution and smog. The old streets are just too narrow for all the cars being bought by people every day. Adding to that is the laying down of new Sewer system, which is being constructed in the whole city of Varanasi. Many roads were dug up in most parts of the city. Varanasi suffered the most due to this unplanned, haphazard digging of all the roads at the same time. Many main routes were closed for up to 3–4 months, putting a lot of pressure on alternate routes which were even narrower. If it rains for one hour in the city, you will instantly have water up to your ankles (especially in the old city area).


The urban character of Varanasi is very complex. The city of Varanasi can be divided into three different areas which have been described below (based on City Development Plan by MCV, 2006):

The Old City

The traditional typical old city of Varanasi has undergone transformations over time, still retaining its original character and ethos. Areas adjacent to Ghats and the old city exhibit dense development due to its proximity to Ghats and their longevity of existence, which have become the cultural fabric of the city. Predominant characteristics of the old city include:

  • Dependence on River Ganga as the sacred lifeline of the entire city.
  • Proximity to Ghats which are the nodes of religious and tourist activity in the city.
  • Rich built heritage representative of various traditional building styles.
  • Pollution of River Ganga due to intense load of tourist and religious acti vi ties.
  • Dotted with temples of high religious significance all along the ghats.
  • Bazaar street pattern catering mainly to religious and tourist population.
  • High density core area with narrow and inorganic street patterns.
  • Encroachment by commercial and informal sector on the roads.
  • Slow moving traffic and lack of parking spaces leading to congestions and chaos.
  • Major concentration of retail and wholesale trade of Handlooms (including Banarasi sarees) and brassware.
  • Haphazard cabling including electric and telephone wires.
  • Open drains with grey water and solid waste dumps along internal streets.
  • Need for improvement in infrastructure, traffic facilities and utilities.
  • Need for provision of infrastructure to cater to the tourist load, conservation and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings.


The Central City

Areas adjacent to the city core are constantly under great development pressure due to close proximity to the core areas. This is because of availability of all services, cultural attractions and Varanasi is no exception to this. These areas have been categorized as “proximal areas” in developing the growth analysis. Predominant characteristics of the newer city include:

  • Focus on religious character reduces considerably.
  • Lower density development as compared to the old city.
  • Relatively wider roads with lesser encroachments.
  • Vulnerable to high potential for growth.
  • Relatively less disorganized compared to the old city area and the built form is less congested. The development pressure on these areas remains high and is likely to impose additional burden on existing limited infrastructural facilities available.
  • Institutional areas like Kashi Vidyapeeth, BHU and Sanskrit University.
  • Railway station and Cantonment area form a considerable part of this zone.
  • The plantation levels and green areas are higher than those in old city but roadside plantation needs to be provided.
  • Major traffic congestion points like railway station, Chaukaghat and Andhrapul fall in this one. The GT road itself carries significan t amoun t of traffic and needs to be decongested.
  • The marked reduction in the number of cycle rickshaws plying on the roads in this zone leads to an increase in the average flow of traffic.
  • Lack of public transport facilities.
  • Diesel Locomotives Factory lies in this zone and forms a major industrial zone on the western side.
  • Newer constructions coming up in the areas near Madhadhi and BHU.


The peripheral areas encompassed by the municipal wards have a strikingly different development pattern than the rest of the city. These areas are becoming more popular among the citizens as they provide more organized development pattern with infrastructure being relatively in better conditions. The State Housing Board, through the Varanasi Development Authority, undertakes these developments. The demand for such development is increasing and with the participation of governmental and private development groups, the growth of peripheral areas is likely to be much higher in comparison to other parts of the city. The proposal for the construction of ring road in this zone has further accelerated the development process. The development in this zone is the most planned and organized in the whole city but there is a relative lack of recreational! green spaces in this zone. Major catalyst for urban growth will be development of new ring road to the north of the city, which will over the next decade, comes into developed form. Greater urban development will take place along this in the northern part of Varanasi. Along with this development of major road systems connecting to the National Highways on the southern extent of the city is already causing a spurt in development in this area. Combined with plans for a transport nagar in the western extremity of Varanasi and the connectivity across the Ganga to the eastern bank (to Ram Nagar and Mughal Sarai) the growth of urban areas and the population of Varanasi outside the municipal wards are likely to continue to accelerate.

The major infrastructural problems are with the old city which has been built around without any consideration to the present day requirements as it dates back to some 500 Be. The place derives its significance majorly from being one of the most ancient cities of the world and as a religious capital of India. People settled around the holy river Ganga since its beginning and now it’s a very densely and haphazardly populated area. This makes it the major area of concern when it comes to finding the difficulties faced by the people with the infrastructural set-up.



To conduct this study and find out the actual scenario a study conducted by Municipal Corporation of Varanasi was taken as the base. A city development plan was made by Municipal Corporation of Varanasi in 2005-06 (hereafter referred as CDP and MCV). The plan identified the various issues and the relevant strategies to tackle the problems concerning the city. The present study utilized a questionnaire that consisted of the problems identified by the MCV as questions and their responses were sought from the people ofVaranasi. This will also help in finding out the effectiveness of the strategies adopted by the MCV in their effort to develop the city. Issues causing concern in the old city of Varanasi (as identified by MCV) and used in the present study are:

  • Densely populated area with intense commerce & huge congestion.
  • Major roads are used as transport corridors & bazaar streets.
  • Prevailing traffic bottlenecks, encroachments, scarcity of parking.
  • 70% retail & wholesale business prevailing in the area.
  • Activities relating to textiles, carpets & metalware operate from here.
  • Small scale industrial units of weaving, clothing, sweets, & food materials are located here.
  • Transformers, electric/ telecom poles are placed haphazardly.
  • Bus stations near cantt Railway station is a nuisance; createstraffic jam.
  • Over 100 year old water supply lines.
  • 70% areas not covered by the sewerage network.
  • No separate storm water drainage system.
  • Poor solid waste management-source of nuisance & health hazard.
  • Air & noise pollution due to bus stops & heavy motorized traffic.
  • Skyline is dominated by wires/ cables.

To counter the above problems that were identified by the MCV the following strategies were formed to resurrect the old infrastructure:

Adequate, effective, sustainable, pollution free service delivery:

  • Potable drinking water to all with major thrust on exploiting available surface water.
  • Sewerage network to connect all urban development within VDA jurisdiction.
  • 100% collection, treatment of sewage & safe disposal.
  • Separate & efficient storm water drainage network for the city.
  • Provision of hi-tech solid waste management system.
  • Suitable,sustainable, efficient, environment friendly transportation system.
  • Provision of tourism infrastructure to support pilgrimage/ tourism.
  • Conserving culture & heritage.
  • Infrastructure for industrial development; and
  • Pollution free & healthy environment.

The study has the following objectives:

  1. To find out the factors and their relative importance which are a cause of concern regarding the infrastructure of the Varanasi city.
  2. To find out the effectiveness of the strategies adopted by the MCV in their city development plan.



This section reproduces the results of investigation obtained through a careful analysis of the response scores with the help on the SPSS software. The raw scores of the present study are the responses of people of the city collected through the measuring device developed by the researcher. All the analysis that is done for the different objectives consists of three parts. First, it has been shown how much each factor has scored based on all the scores that have been provided by the respondents. Second, it has been shown that how much percentage of respondents have considered each factor as a serious/ major factor or good/ excellent factor etc. with respect to the type of question and its response options. Third, regression analysis has been performed whose “beta values” gives the importance of each factor as compared to each factor. Finally, the conclusions have been drawn by giving due consideration to each of the results. In case of any differences between the three results, regression being the most reliable test has been given the preference and final results have been drawn based on it.


The respondents were given various factors which are major issues with the Varanasi’s old infrastructure and were asked to rate them on a scale of 1 (least) to 5 (major). The factors with decreasing order of importance are:

Regression Analysis

For further investigation into the issue regression analysis was conducted to find out the factors which are major issues/ problems with the infrastructure. The same result has been obtained in this case also and hence only the top three important factors (with largest beta values) have been displayed. The results have been displayed below in Table:

The standardized coefficients further prove the results and establish the importance of these factors. From the above results we can interpret that the major factors according to the respondents are as follows:

  1. Transformers, electric/ telecom poles are placed haphazardly.
  2. Bus station near cantonment railway station is a nuisance, creates traffic jam and
  3. Major roads are used as transport corridors & bazar streets.

The pattern of responses of the respondents to these top three factors can be observed graphically with the help of bar charts as shown below in Fig. 1,2,3:


To resurrect a whole city which has been left on its fate and the unconcerned people for several decades is not an easy task. A beginning was made and proper problem identification was done accordingly a plan was made consisting of different strategies to tackle this war for city development. But, how far those strategies/ plans have been implemented and have provided this city and its people some relief is still a question. The present study shows that people especially in the old city still are struggling with those same old problems of over congested roads due to badly placed bus stands and auto stands causing same old long traffic jams and adding to it are the wrongly placed transformers and electricity poles the further disturb the proper flow of traffic. Still the major roads are being used as bazaar streets and consist of various small scale industries. The thing that draws attention is that most of the problems that were rated by the respondents were considered as major problems. Most of the issues were rated as major/ serious issues by more than 50% of the respondents. This further raises a question mark on the implementation of the strategies that were made. No matter how much great your plan is with no or bad implementation it will never succeed. Whether these problems will ever get a solution is a big question mark on the implementers of the plans.

(Excerpted from “Varanasi—Critical Issues In City Management”)

By Vivek Tiwari

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