If govt can move Mumbai Metro depot, then it can also change alignment: Girgaum residents

Girgaum residents are making renewed demands for changes to the alignment of Metro III, drawing hope from news that the government might give in to public pressure and move the Metro yard from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg

There seems to be no relief in sight for the Metro authorities whose plans for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz corridor have been held up for months due to vehement opposition from citizens.

While environmental activists are thrilled with indications that the government might finally give in to public pressure and build Metro III’s car shed in Kanjurmarg instead of Aarey Colony, this has now given renewed hope to Girgaum residents that the authorities will also consider their objections to the project’s alignment.

Girgaum residents have opposed Metro III from the start, as its alignment will lead to the demolition of some buildings. Project affected persons (PAPs) have refused to vacate these buildings until they are given alternate accommodation first.

Frustrated that they have been unable to get an appointment with the Chief Minister, locals have now threatened to intensify protests if their demands are not met. Sources said that Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) officials now fear the renewed protests will lead to further delays and cost escalation.

Sources from MMRDA who did not wish to be named said, “If the car depot is shifted from Aarey to Kanjurmarg, then other people who have been opposing the project with their various demands will also try and create pressure, and this will lead to more problems during the implementation of the line.”

“We have sent many letters to the authorities; recently another letter was sent to MMRC and the only response was that they have appointed surveyors and they would take a decision after interacting with PAPs. Our demand is very simple, PAPs should be rehabilitated within 500 meters of our present residence and this demand will not be changed at all.

The MMRC does not have a proper plan which can convince people that the proper rehabilitation of PAPs will be done,” said local Shiv Sena leader Pandurang Sakpal, who is also representative for residents of Chira Bazar, Girgaum, Grant Road.

PAPs have also demanded that the authorities either divert the alignment of Metro III via Netaji Subhash road, or drop two Metro stations - Kalbadevi and Girgaum – which will affect several buildings in the area. In addition, there are fears that the project’s construction will also put at risk structures that are more than 100 years old.

It should be noted that the MMRC had earlier tried to assure locals that the Metro’s construction would be carried out only after ensuring all necessary precautions and safety measures, so that there is no risk to existing structures that fall along the corridor.

However, one of the activists said that if the government was ready to shift the car shed to Kanjurmarg due to pressure from citizens, it could also accede to the demands of Girgaum residents. “We have been reading in the newspapers that government might be planning to shift the car depot from Aarey to Kanjurmarg, which is a good decision.

We expect the government to now also think about the PAPs from Girgaum. Changes should be made in the Metro alignment so that no family staying in the area gets affected due to the construction. If our demands are not met then we will take to the streets in large numbers.”

Uncertain future
If the MMRC does build the car depot at Kanjurmarg, it will have to extend the line till there from Seepz, which will add at least another Rs 4,000 crore to the cost of the project. To add to this, there are now rumours that Kanjurmarg residents are opposed to the construction of the depot there.

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