The much-touted bhoomi pujan for the Metro III line yesterday bore uncanny similarities with the one done for the Metro II just ahead of the last state assembly polls in 2009, raising questions on whether this corridor would also meet the fate of its predecessor, which has remained an absolute non-starter so far.

Also Read: Mumbai Metro may go underground, link to Thane

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu at the ceremony yesterday
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu at the ceremony yesterday

In the five years since then President Pratibha Patil performed the bhoomi pujan for Metro II (Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd) on August 18, 2009, to beat the code of conduct for the state assembly polls, not a single brick has been laid for the line, with CM Prithviraj Chavan hinting earlier this month that the corridor could even be scrapped altogether.

 The area in BKC, where the bhoomi pujan for Metro II was done in 2009, is now home to a wasteland and several new buildings. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The area in BKC, where the bhoomi pujan for Metro II was done in 2009, is now home to a wasteland and several new buildings. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

The Metro II project had failed to take off due to problems in getting environmental clearances for the car sheds at Charkop and Mankhurd. Problems had also surfaced during attempts to raise
capital for the line through commercial exploitation.

Then, in June 2010, the state cabinet approved the Colaba-Bandra corridor with a 9-km underground section from Colaba to Mahalaxmi and an elevated stretch from Mahalaxmi to Bandra. This also met the fate of the Metro II line, facing problems in getting clearances for a car shed at Mahalaxmi Racecourse and the Centre’s refusal to increase the 40 per cent cap on viability gap funding (VGF).

Rewind, repeat
Despite all this, however, the state government decided to go ahead with the puja ceremony for the Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-Andheri [SEEPZ]) line yesterday. And the circumstances were much the same as they were in 2009, with the Congress-led Democratic Front government making a last-ditch effort to score some brownie points with the voters before the code of conduct for the state polls came into force. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan conducted the bhoomi pujan in the presence of Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and other ministers and dignitaries.

Problems abound
When the CM-led state cabinet had take up the Metro III for approval in January 2012, its cost was Rs 21,600 crore, which has now shot up to Rs 23,136 crore. And, even as the state government has claimed that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has approved Rs 13,000 crore for the project, the formal agreement inked in September last year puts the amount at nearly one-third of that Rs 4,553 crore.

Also, the Metro III is an amalgamation of the Metro II and Metro VII corridors, which were envisaged to connect Charkop-Bandra- Mankhurd and Kanjurmarg-SEEPZ, increasing the odds of the corridor inheriting all or some of the problems of its predecessor.

Officials from the MMRDA, however, are upbeat and say the authority and the Centre will provide Rs 4,000 crore each for the corridor, with the Mumbai International Airport Limited pitching in with R700 crore. The MMRDA has also said that the final bidding process will be completed by December and work on it will begin after that.