A day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the Metro III depot would have to be built in the eco-sensitive Aarey Colony because shifting it to Kanjurmarg would cost an additional Rs 1,500 crore, environmentalists have written a strong letter to him to express their disappointment. The green warriors further claim that the Metro authorities and the CM are lying and deliberately inflating the cost to avoid moving the project out of Aarey.
Green warriors have protested the plan to build the Metro depot in Aarey Colony, insisting Kanjurmarg, or even Kalina, is a better alternative with less ecological damage. File pic
CM Fadnavis had made the statement on Friday, while replying to a question in the Assembly. “Shifting of the car depot from Aarey to other location will cost an extra Rs 1,500 crore and the commuters who will travel via Metro Line III will have to face the burden in terms of paying high ticket rates. So, we think that Aarey land is an ideal location for the car depot,” he had said, adding that the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) would need the extra R1,500 crore to strengthen the marshy land before construction.
Stalin D, who is from NGO Vanashakti and has long been a part of the Save Aarey campaign, told this reporter, “I think MMRC and CM are deliberately making a misleading statement that the cost will increase by Rs 1,500 crore if the car depot is shifted from Aarey to Kanjurmarg. Even a layman can understand that strengthening the marshy land at Kanjurmarg will not need so much money.”
In his letter to the CM, written on behalf of the Save Aarey campaign and the NGO Vanashakti, Stalin states: ‘You have said on camera that you are committed to protecting Mumbai’s green spaces and by supporting the destruction of Aarey you are doing the opposite… We humbly request you not to be misled by wrong facts and figures.’
Fadnavis also said that according to the new project plan, far fewer trees would have to be felled (350-500), and added that the MMRC would plant 3,000 trees in compensation. However, this has not gone down with citizens campaigning to save the biodiversity-rich Aarey from construction. They argue that even if the cost increases, it will be worth it to shift the Metro yard to Kanjurmarg.
Sudam Navle, an Andheri resident who visits Aarey five days a week for morning walks, said, “I seriously don’t understand why everyone — including the CM — is speaking only about trees. The Metro car depot at Aarey will have a negative impact on the entire biodiversity, so the government should spend the extra R1,500 crore and move the depot to Kanjurmarg. The added benefit is that this will bring down the traffic on JVLR road, reducing pollution and improving travel speed and connectivity.”
The same point was reiterated in Stalin D’s letter to the CM. The letter stated that by shifting the Metro yard to Kanjurmarg, the authorities would automatically provide transportation to the neglected areas of Powai and Chandivli, which have burgeoning population but no rail or bus depots nearby. Apart from that, the entire population along the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road has to put up with severe traffic congestion as this key road connects east to west. This traffic burden would be reduced by shifting the Metro car depot and alignment. Stalin further insists that the cost of Rs 1,500 crore can’t be considered a waste as residents from Jogeshwari to Kanjurmarg will also be able to use the Metro.
'We are being maligned'
Last week, the media had carried reports stating that Royal Palms Limited had shown interest in providing land for the car depot in the plot they own within Aarey. Some reports implied that the environmentalists protesting the construction of the depot were in cahoots with the developer. The Vanashakti and the Save Aarey Conservation Group released a statement saying this was merely an attempt to malign their efforts to protect Aarey. They added that they would continue to oppose the Metro depot in the Aarey forest and in Royal Palms, which also falls in an Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA).
“Even in reply to RTIs filed by us, you (MMRC) have not mentioned this site was considered for locating the car shed. Which only means that you were concealing facts from the public. Instead of being honest about your conduct and communications with the private developer, you chose to paint us as the entity that wanted Royal Palms to be used as a site for the car shed... We have always maintained that the attempted location of the car shed in Aarey is a prelude to real estate development by you and other private developers. You have occupied the land, started excavation and levelling the grounds endangering the trees, without securing mandatory permissions,” counters the statement.
'Won't cost so much'
Stalin’s letter to the CM makes a few pertinent points contesting the CM’s claims:
>> Kanjurmarg is not marshy land. The plot had dried up as it has not received any tide water for 15 years.
>> Sewage water from nearby slums is spread out on the surface, severely compromising the character of the wetland. If the sewage water is blocked for even a month, the entire land will be ‘hard as rock’.
>> Mumbai’s construction debris has no place to go and is dumped in Vasai. Instead, use Kanjurmarg plot for this prupose and developers will pay money to dump debris there and raise the height of the land.
>> Considering that capital cost will not account for more than 50% of the total ticket price, the net impact to the final ticket price will not be more than 3.2%.