Post By: Shripad Dharmadhikari & Jinda Sandbhor
Map showing Varanasi city and national waterways near Varanasi (Photo: Jinda Sandbhor)

"Haritage of Varanasi"- Tributary of River Ganga, are going to be killed by creating National Waterways

Varanasi find a place in the 111 waterways that has been declared by the government of India as national waterways. Additionally, a multimodal hub, consisting of a river-road-rail terminal is also coming up at the Ram Nagar in the city. The multimodal hub will link the Ganga waterway with the eastern dedicated freight corridor. The under-construction waterways in Varanasi are as discussed below:

National Waterway 1:-

Ramnagar terminal of National Waterway 1 under construction in Varanasi. by Nandini Oza

National Waterway 1 is the longest Waterway in India, starting from Haldia port from River Hoogly to Allahabad. This is connecting to four major states - West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The construction of the terminal is going on without an environmental clearance from Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), even though, as per our understanding, given the capacity of the terminal [3.5 million tons per annum (mtpa), in first phase from 2018, and 18 mtpa in second phase], it would need environmental clearance.

To operationalize the national waterway 1 from Varanasi to sahibganj stretch, a 2.2 meter deep and 45 meter wide navigational channel will be dredged in the Ganga. This will have serious impacts on aquatic lives, fishermen and pollution issues, which have not been studied.

Fishermen laying fishing net in River Ganga for fishing near Ghats of Varanasi city: photo by Jinda Sandbhor.

National waterway 12:-

National Waterway 12 starts near the golf club area of the city and ends at the confluence point of River Asi with Ganga Sagar near Asi Ghat. River is facing huge encroachments on its both the banks. At some places the river flows through a narrow channel or through cement pipes

River stretch of Asi River near saket nagar in Varanasi city. The River is highly polluted and under encroachments: photo by Jinda Sandbhor

We feel this waterway will not be feasible technically. However, the above picture shows the sad state of the river.

National Waterway 108:-

The National waterways 108 starts at the road bridge near Kuru on River Varuna River.

Polluted Varuna River near Varanasi city. Garbage dumps can be seen on the banks of River. National Waterway 108 goes through this River: photo by Jinda Sandbhor

Parts of the River are also being channelized under on-going riverfront development project. This project has narrowed the River channel. The land outside this channel which is also part of the riverbed and flood-plain will be utilizes for other commercial activities.

The most significant and serious problem is the lack of awareness and lack of consultation with the local people. Also there is no environmental clearance process, which means that the impacts will not be scrutinized from the social environment angle.

Asi and Varuna rivers are heritage of Varanasi. They must be revived for their own sake, not for waterway. The need is to reclaim land of these rivers to enable them to flow freely for their own sake, rather than for the waterway.

We request to Prime Minister of India shri Narendra Modi to reclaim Asi and Varuna for preserving the cultural heritage of Varansi and not for waterways.

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