The Ujjain Simhastha Kumbh Mahaparva is one of the four Kumbha Melas, which is held once in 12 years. Around 5 crore pilgrims are expected to take a holy dip in the Kshipra river at Ujjain between April 22 and May 21, 2016. In 2005, the government assigned the responsibility of organising Ujjain Simhastha 2016 to Diwakar Natu, Chairman of the Simhastha Fair Authority. He spoke to India Water Portal in January 2016 about the ongoing preparations for the event.
What is the Simhastha?
Simhastha is the time when every individual who visits Ujjain wants to take a holy dip in the river Kshipra on an auspicious day at a defined time. It occurs once every 12 years and many religious activities are performed by the Hindu priests during this period.
What steps have you taken for this Simhastha to improve the Kshipra river flow and to manage the massive crowds?
We had tried a few water conservation experiments in the Kshipra river bed but those have not worked properly. The water in the Kshipra has reduced, and there was a need to increase the availability of water. I, along with a team of 50-60 people, surveyed the Kshipra and shared our views to the MP government on how to restore the river. The government then implemented the Narmada-Kshipra link project to meet the water needs for the Simhastha.
To manage the crowd, we have worked on broadening the road networks in and around Ujjain and to improve and control the traffic. The local administration has acquired 3000 hectares of land for managing Simhastha activities. We have constructed more ghats on the Kshipra. Approximately Rs. 3000 crore is the expected overall expense for this Simhastha, and we have spent Rs.2400 crore so far on infrastructure development.
A full-fledged 24x7 electrical system has been established to provide power supply for Simhastha activities. We are taking all necessary measures to avoid fire, epidemics and accidents in the city. Every government department is involved in and contributing to making this Simhastha a success. We hope that all the infrastructure and other work will be completed before February 15, 2016. The administration has also taken all relevant efforts to provide adequate drinking water and sanitation solutions for this massive fair.
How many public stand posts are you planning to install in Ujjain for providing drinking water? How you will ensure water quality?
To provide drinking water to the people, the installation of almost 1000 public stand in the Simhastha area and other parts of the city is in progress. We have enlisted private agencies also to help us provide quality water to the visitors.
How many toilets you are planning to construct for the Simhastha and how you will manage the solid waste?
We have to build 46,000 toilets in the entire Simhastha area. The government is working 24x7 to complete this massive construction work and has outsourced work to many private companies also. We have also made all the arrangements to dispose of the solid waste. We hope we will complete the task on time.
Because of this Simhastha, many farmers, small traders and labourers are losing employment. What do you have to say about that?
No, that is not the case. We have compensated the farmers who have relevant documents. The small traders and the labourers are not unemployed, and they are just opting for another job at this time.
What do you feel about the Narmada-Kshipra Simhastha link project? Can mixing the Narmada water with the Kshipra clean it up? And is it a sustainable solution?
Narmada-Kshipra Simhastha link project is an excellent initiative of the MP government. Yes, we feel that by mixing the Narmada in the Kshipra, the water quality of the Kshipra will improve. The primary objective of this link project is to provide Narmada water for Simhastha activities. The cost of pumping Narmada water to Ujjain would be covered by the government only for Simhastha. After that, the government will decide how they will distribute Narmada water to other cities.
What measures you are planning to take to clean the Kshipra during Simhastha?
We have appointed a committee to monitor cleanliness in and around Kshipra. We will take all the necessary measures to keep Kshipra and Ujjain neat and clean.