Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest living cities, is now, after election of Narendra Modi, expecting a radical change in its urban infrastructure and civic amenities. The Prime Minister has already held out some thoughts on his priorities for the city including cleanliness and a vision for it as a thriving hub of tourism.
One sector that is watching the developments with a sense of optimism is real estate that sees a new lease of life, given that there is hope that Narendra Modi would be able to get his vision for the city implemented.
“Narendra Modi is unequivocally pro-development and also pro-tourism, both of which are good news for a city like Varanasi,” says Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, JLL India. “A determined focus on infrastructural upliftment in general will mean that tier-III towns will see a stronger emergence, especially if they already have decisive economic drivers in place. This is definitely the case with Varanasi, which has been seeing gradual but steady growth in both economic activity and real estate dynamism.”
The current area under the Varanasi Nagar Nigam, the municipality, is 79.79 square kms, according to its website, making it a mid-sized city. Municipal administration in Varanasi dates back to 1959 when the first municipal board was formed. According to the latest figures available, its expenditure budget for FY14 stood at around Rs 568 crore. As a comparison, the municipal corporation of neighbouring Allahabad spent Rs 469 crore.
But, Varanasi also covers a substantial area outside the municipal jurisdiction, called the Varanasi urban agglomeration that is around 112.26 sq km. There is the Banaras Hindu University, the cantonment and a vast railway settlement. For coordinated regional planning, the Uttar Pradesh government established the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) in 1974. In 1994, the authority had formulated a Master Plan, 2011 and created several zones for the city. Interestingly, this plan is only for the west of the Ganga. The eastern half is as yet untouched by the Master Plan.
In 1994, the land use pattern recorded by the VDA showed that 37 per cent was taken up for residential purposes, while 20 per cent was for recreational use. The 2011 Master Plan placed the maximum emphasis on housing, apportioning 53 per cent of the total land use. Neighbouring Allahabad had 34 per cent land used for housing in 2001, which was envisaged