A pier development project in Varanasi inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November has been swamped as the water level in Ganga rose above the danger mark in the city, The Week reported on Wednesday.
Varanasi is the prime minister’s parliamentary constituency.
All 80 ghats (river embankments) in the city, including Khidkiya ghat, the site of the pier project, were flooded. The cremation grounds on the ghats were also flooded and last rites had to be performed in nearby lanes.
At the Khidkiya ghat, two helipads, a compressed natural gas refueling station and two platforms have been submerged. An under-construction spur and a 7-km-long canal have also been reportedly swept away.
At 6 pm on Wednesday, the water level of Ganga in the city stood at 72.12 m, well above the danger mark of 71.26 m, Hindi daily Amar Ujala reported. The Central Water Commission has alerted that inflow from the Yamuna river and its tributaries may lead to further increase of water level in Ganga.
The neighbouring districts of Ballia, Mirzapur, Ghazipur, Bhadohi and Chandauli have also been affected by the floods. As many as 600 villages across 24 districts of Uttar Pradesh have been hit by the floods, according to NDTV.
On Wednesday, Modi spoke to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Varanasi city unit chief Vidyasagar Rai to take stock of the flood situation, the Hindustan Times reported. The prime minister reportedly asked about the status of the water level and relief work. He also promised all possible help, a BJP spokesperson told the newspaper.
Khidkiya ghat project
The pier redevelopment initiative was part of a slew of projects Modi inaugurated in Varanasi in November. The project includes plans to set up restaurants, a water sports centre and an amphitheatre, The Week reported.
These are part of a larger project – the National Waterway 1 – which envisages a water transport route between Haldia in West Bengal and Varanasi.
Experts speaking to The Week raised concerns on building such a project on a floodplain.
“When you encroach a floodplain for residential or commercial purposes, there is always the danger that the embankment used to contain the river will be swept away by the force of water,” irrigation expert Pratik Ranjan Chaurasia said.
He added that the pace of climate change will expedite natural events and they will occur more frequently.
A report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Monday flagged similar concerns for India. The report said that in the coming years, India will begin to see more effects of climate change, including glacial retreat in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, compounding effects of rising sea levels, unpredictable monsoon, and severe tropical cyclones that will lead to floods.