The meeting was attended by Shri Ramgopal Mohley, Mayor of Varanasi, Vice-Chairman of Varanasi Development Authority, Director General of Archeological Survey of India (ASI), senior officials from the Ministries of External Affairs, Culture and Human Resources Development and officials from other concerned agencies besides officials from the Embassy of Japan.
Shri Praveen Prakash, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development and Convenor of the Steering Committee made a presentation highlighting the similarities between Kyoto and Varanasi and the possibilities of sharing the experiences of Kyoto in emerging as the top ranked city in the world in the domain of leisure and tourism with development strategies centered around conserving its rich culture heritage.
The similarities brought out included: both cities of tourism importance with Kyoto attracting about 50 million tourists every year and Varanasi receiving about 5 million visitors, three rivers flowing through both the cities besides both being the locations of rich cultural heritage with Kyoto being known as the city of one thousand shrines and Varanasi as the temple town.
Three principles highlighted in respect of Kyoto’s initiatives were : 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 etc. The other measures taken by 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.
Shri Shakar Aggarwal suggested that Kyoto’s initiatives and experiences be formulated into concrete areas of cooperation for possible implementation in Varanasi keeping in view its unique characteristics in collaboration with Kyoto. He also suggested firming up technical, financial and institutional arrangements for effective operationalization of the Partnership Agreement between the two cities.
Reviving the soul of Varanasi through organizing regular fairs based on the rich and historical cultural traditions and creative skills of the people of the city were also discussed.
Based on todays’s deliberations, actionable proposals would be evolved for further consideration by the Governments of India and Japan and the city of Kyoto.