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Varanasi Seeks Global Innovators for $9M Sustainable Cities Challenge to Improve Crowd Management

Varanasi, India (27 June 2024) – In a bid to enhance crowd flow management in its historic Kashi district, Varanasi has announced a global call for innovative solutions as part of the Toyota Mobility Foundation’s $9 million Sustainable Cities Challenge. Selected innovators will have access to a share of $3 million in funding to develop and test user-centered solutions aimed at improving safety and accessibility for pilgrims, tourists, and vulnerable groups.

Varanasi, a city renowned for its spiritual significance and dense urban landscape, faces challenges in managing the millions of visitors it attracts annually. The initiative aims to leverage technology, data analytics, urban design, and behavioral science to provide insights into crowd dynamics and reduce congestion.

Akshat Verma IAS, Municipal Commissioner of Varanasi, expressed enthusiasm about the project, stating, “We look forward to working with innovators worldwide to make Kashi safer and more accessible for all. This challenge is an opportunity to identify technologies that benefit Varanasi’s citizens and visitors.”

Pras Ganesh, Executive Program Director at Toyota Mobility Foundation, emphasized the foundation’s commitment to innovation, partnership, and sustainability. “This project has the potential to develop human-centric crowd management solutions applicable to other cities facing similar issues,” he said.

The challenge is supported by Challenge Works and the World Resources Institute, with applications open until September 5, 2024. Semi-finalists will be selected in November 2024 and finalists in May 2025, culminating in up to three winners in March 2026 who will share $1.5 million to further scale their solutions.

Varanasi is one of three cities hosting these challenges, alongside Detroit, USA, and Venice, Italy. The initiative underscores Varanasi’s role as a leader in sustainable urban development, inviting global innovators to contribute to the city’s future.

For more information, visit the Sustainable Cities Challenge website.

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