By Accommodation Times Bureau
The 41-hectare Kanjurmarg salt pan land, which was first identified for the Colaba-SEEPZ Metro-III car shed, will now be used for Metro-VI. This elevated metro line is from Swami Samarth Nagar (Lokhandwala, Andheri West) via Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road to Kanjurmarg. While activists were keen the Metro-III car shed be shifted to Kanjurmarg to save Aarey’s green cover, it will remain at Aarey.
In 2015, facing power-packed protests from the public, against the construction of a metro car shed at Aarey, the state government had built up a committee to look for alternative sites for a metro car shed. “The committee’s first choice was Kanjurmarg,” said metropolitan commissioner UPS Madan.
The 41-hectares, though not disputed, is part of a single survey number comprising 200 hectares which is disputed and there is a order of the Bombay High Court to maintain status quo since 1997.
In 2015, under public pressure, the state government was keen not to destroy the tree cover in Aarey and directed the then Mumbai suburban collector Shekhar Channe to file an affidavit before the HC asking for the stay to be lifted. In his affidavit filed in August 2015, Channe said it was the most ideal and suitable land and there was no other suitable land available. He further said though Aarey Colony was initially sought to be utilized, the same had been ruled out as the land falls in the eco-sensitive zone. The affidavit said if the relief prayed were not granted then the project would be in jeopardy. The collector said if the petitioners succeeded, then the government would monetarily compensate them in accordance with law.
Madan said the court directed the government to deposit the entire amount till the matter was over. This amounted to approximately Rs 2,661 crore. MMRDA then chose not to follow up the matter and instead settled for Aarey. One of the deciding factors was the deadline set by the government for the project completion. The government is keen that the project be commissioned before the next general elections.
Madan admitted it was one of the reasons to opt for Aarey. This is also borne out in Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd’s April 2016 letter to the urban development department seeking Aarey land. It states, “One of the most critical activities for the successful delivery of Metro-III project is construction of the depot to receive, test, commission the trains to be ready for service, which may be subject to serious delays due to pending decision on car depot.” Asked if the government would now pay for a depot on the Kanjurmarg plot, Madan said
They now have other documents and plans which are in favour of the government. “We have referred the matter to the government pleader and we may not need to deposit money,” he said, making it clear the MMRDA will now pursue the matter. But the Metro III car-shed will come up in Aarey, said Madan, “as the Kanjurmarg land is not sufficient to accommodate the requirements of the two corridors.” D Stalin, Director, Vanashakti, that has moved the National Green Tribunal to declare Aarey as a forest, said the depot could be built at Kanjurmarg. “It is a good site for an integrated transport hub. It’s the lack of political will that is pushing Aarey into needless ruin,” he said