For green activists, it is only a partial triumph that the government will now try to build the car depot for Metro Line III at Kanjurmarg instead of chopping 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony.
Environmentalists are upset that the state is now considering a smaller stabling yard within Aarey, which will come up at the cost of about 500 trees and potentially threaten wildlife. Instead they want the authorities to build it at the MMRDA ground in Bandra-Kurla Complex.
Environmentalists say it is a better idea to build the stabling yard at the MMRDA ground at BKC instead, since it is vacant and falls along the Metro corridor. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Throughout their campaign against the proposal for the Metro III car shed in Aarey, activists had said they would not allow a single tree to be cut.
They had repeatedly said that simply replanting and transplanting would not make up for the ecological cost, as it was not just about trees but the local wildlife as well (‘Activists gather proof of wildlife at Aarey for PIL against Metro’, mid-day, March 10).
The protests prompted Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to appoint a panel of experts to review the Metro and suggest alternative locations for the yard (‘Find other sites for Metro car depot, CM tells experts’, March 3).
On Friday, the CM accepted the panel’s report which recommended that a smaller yard with 16 stabling lines to park the coaches be built in Aarey, as this would not require as many trees to be cut. Meanwhile, the state has three months to obtain land at Kanjurmarg – currently under dispute – for the larger Metro car shed.
Point (d) in the recommendations paragraph of the report reads, ‘To maintain the operational efficiency of underground corridor of Metro III, a small facility consisting of only stabling lines shall be constructed within Aarey Colony.
MMRC will ensure that this facility is developed on earthfill to economise on cost and total impact on trees should be less than 500.’ Environmentalists are unhappy with this plan and have instead demanded that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority also take the stabling yard out of Aarey and build it on the vacant MMRDA ground at BKC instead.
‘MMRDA ground is the best location’
“There is a huge parcel of land in BKC which belongs to the MMRDA. This is the best location and least damaging environmentally — with practically zero impact — for the stabling yard for Metro rakes. Instead, the MMRDA is hell bent on occupying the ecologically sensitive Aarey Colony after cutting 500 trees in their so-called revised proposal.
You decide if the barren land in BKC — owned by MMRDA, falling along the proposed route and free from all encumbrances – isn’t better suited for the car shed? Why should Aarey pay the price?” questioned environmentalist Stalin Dayanand from the NGO Vanashakti.
Another activist, a resident of the Royal Palms area, said, “The authorities would be wrong to think that opposition to the Metro has reduced. We will oppose any kind of tree cutting in Aarey, and thousands of people will come forward to protest again. MMRDA should construct the stabling yard at BKC instead.”
Ashwini Bhide, MMRC managing director
As of now we are not aware that there is opposition to the stabling lines for Metro III in Aarey. Once all the appropriate permissions come in place from the concerned authorities, only then will we proceed. We have certain permissions in place and we will also present our case in front of the National green tribunal (NGT).
For a cause
mid-day has been following the Metro controversy with sustained reports about the protests and the recommendations of the CM’s expert committee so far.
Priya Mishra, Activist, Save Aarey Conservation Group
Rather than focusing on the entire ecology, the expert committee has focused solely on trees. The area is ecologically important and so any kind of stabling yard coming there would also have a negative impact and citizens will protest against it.
Manish Gadia, Activist, Save Aarey Group
Any decision to cut trees in Aarey will be opposed. We don’t want the stabling yard or any Metro station to come up in Aarey, and we request the authorities to completely take Metro Line III out of Aarey Milk Colony.