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Mangroves eclipse progress of Metro-II

The Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd (CBM) Metro Rail II has remained a non-starter ever since the bhoomi pujan in 2009. Latest in the list of reasons for delay is sunlight, or rather, the lack of it. Neither Reliance Infrastructure nor the State government has been able to come to a conclusion on the proposed car-shed at Charkop and Mankhurd that is to be constructed over a long stretch of mangroves.

Charkop
It is uncertain if the car shed will be built over the mangroves at Charkop. Alternate plots of land are being considered. File pic

According to sources, the Rs 8,250-crore-worth Metro II is now at such a stage that the State government is thinking of giving precedence to the Rs 21,000 crore Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro III. The 32 km-odd length of the corridor is to be completely underground. Earlier, the Metro-II was to get two different lands for Metro car shed — 19.7 hectares at Charkop and 24 hectares at Mankhurd.

However, the area is predominantly covered by mangroves. As per plans, the car depot was to be built on stilts in order to prevent destruction of mangroves. If it is, then the shed will block sunlight that is essential to survival of the mangroves.

Apart from this, maintenance, repair and washing of Metro rail rakes will also not be permitted in this car depot. Officials claim that they won’t be able to handle oiling and greasing during repair work. “The state has failed to obtain an unconditional clearance from the MoEF for construction of car depot at Charkop and Mankhurd and has rendered it a non-starter,” said an official from Reliance Infrastructure.

Metro in doldrums
According to sources, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan wanted the authorities to take a strong note on the slow development of Metro II at a recent Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) Project Review meeting.

“The Chief minister has asked us to contemplate on the scope of going forward with the phase-III of Metro rail,” informed an MMRDA official. This would only mean that the State Government, at the top level, is unhappy with the progress even as Reliance Infrastructure claims that environment clearances for car depots at Charkop and Mankhurd are pending by the state and Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Presently, they are also identifying alternative land for car sheds where repair and maintenance of Metro rakes can be carried out without any obstruction, added MMRDA sources. The list of reasons for delays seems never-ending.

According to a written communication in September 2012 between the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) and Mumbai Metro Transport Pvt Ltd (one arm of Reliance Infrastructure that is responsible for phase-II), many reasons like non-availability of land for car sheds, lack of 100 per cent right of way for stations, and the shifting of underground utilities have been listed.

“We have already handed over the right of way to Mumbai Metro Transport Pvt Ltd (MMTPL) and they should start work on the corridor at the earliest,” said Rahul Asthana, Metropolitan Commissioner. However, due to the mangroves issue, the MMRDA is looking at an alternate land between Goregaon and Malad near Link Road spanning over 47 hectares.

This is lieu of the Charkop land where the car depot is proposed to come up. Here, however, the local politicians are acting as road blocks. “The identified plot near Link Road has several reservations for school, roads and playgrounds so we wouldn’t allow a car depot to come up on that land,” said Subhash Desai, a Shiv Sena leader.

(Inputs from Ranjeet Jadhav) 

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