Now, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) wants land spanning over 30 hectares in Aarey Milk Colony for the construction of a car depot for the proposed Metro Line III of Colaba-Bandra-Seepz.
A letter written by the Revenue and Forest Department to the suburban District Collector states that there are trees, cowsheds and animals — belonging to Schedule I on the endangered list — on the land sought by the MMRDA for the car depot. The department has asked for a detailed survey of the land required for construction and marking of the area in the report that will be submitted to the state government for final approval. According to sources, the 30 hectares also include electricity lines, water pipelines, and slum pockets. The final decision on the land will be taken only after the survey.
Environmentalists and activists have already opposed the plan and are demanding that the proposed car depot be shifted, as it will have a negative impact on the wildlife and biodiversity at Aarey Milk Colony.
According to environmentalist Rishi Agarwal, the car shed for Metro Line I situated at Four Bungalows in Andheri (W) covers about 10 hectares. Also, a large part of the area is reserved for constructing a private residential complex.
“I think the effective area used will be five hectares only. Why are 30 hectares required for Metro Line III, that too in an area of natural importance like Aarey Milk Colony? Can’t Metro Line III rolling stock be maintained at the same car depot as Metro Line I? We will oppose such a large-scale diversion of land from Aarey. There is a five-acre plot on the east side of Bandra station. Can’t that land be used?”
Anand Pendharkar, environmentalist and founder of Sprouts, an NGO, said, “The Aarey grasslands not only act as an important carbon sink, but also contribute in keeping the city cool. However, if the campus is turned into a development zone with the depot, it will cause a lot of changes in the local temperature and wildlife distributions and movements, especially of the leopards. This is just another attempt to gobble up Aarey land.
Aarey milk Colony fact file
The Aarey Milk Colony is spread across 12 sq kms and is adjacent to Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
A study on the biodiversity of the area done by Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza states that there are 76 different species of birds, 86 different species of butterflies, 13 different species of amphibians, 38 different types of reptiles, 19 different spiders and 34 different types of wild flowers in the area.
Apart from these, different mammals including leopards, spotted deer, rusty spotted cat, jungle cat, civet, sambar deer, and barking deer also reside there.