While environmental activists continue to fight a losing battle in their efforts to save nearly 2,300 trees in Aarey Colony that could be felled to make way for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ (CBS) Metro Line III, they may just have another card up their sleeve.
Pic for representation
The Save Aarey Milk Colony community and environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal have now decided to appeal directly to the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is partly funding the CBS Metro.
From the time the Metro III project was proposed along with its 30-hectare car depot in Aarey Colony the Save AMC group has presented staunch opposition to the plans, citing its environmental cost.
However, their pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears so far, with the group meeting its latest defeat on December 4, when the members met MMRDA commissioner UPS Madan to discuss the issue.
The group suggested that the car depot for the Metro should be shifted to open land at Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) instead. The group proposed two different points that could be used for the car shed, which could then accordingly be connected to either Mahalaxmi or CST through underground tunnels.
However, their suggestions did not find any traction. “Our officials explained that shifting the car depot is not possible at present, as construction has already begun at Aarey. Shifting the car depot to MbPT will require various permissions and approvals, which could take months, or even years.
We don’t want Line III to get delayed, and, so, we have requested the group to think practically from all angles,” said an MMRDA official.
‘Where there is a will...’
The group has already written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and undaunted, now intend to write to JICA as well, putting forward their arguments. “We are not against development, but it should not happen at the cost of the environment. Our only request is to shift the Metro III car depot to MbPT, where land is already available.
With the BJP in power in the state and at the Centre, this is possible, and if there is a will to do so, the process of getting permissions and approvals won’t require much time either,” said environmentalist Aggarwal, further adding, “We are also going to write to JICA, which is funding the Metro III project, and we will point out to them that they should also ask MMRDA to shift the car depot.”
Support, at last
The group now seems to be backed by Bandra West MLA and the city president of the BJP, Ashish Shelar, who had reportedly given the MMRDA three alternatives to explore, instructing them not to cut trees.
Sources said that during a recent meeting with the officials, Shelar had said that if the trees are cut, an FIR should be lodged against those responsible. “I had met UPS Madan, and a meeting was conducted to propose alternatives to minimise the number of trees to be cut, including the option of having the car depot at MbPT land instead,” said Shelar.
>> Environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal said nearly 1,000 acres of land was available at MbPT
>> “Clearly a part of this land can be used to situate important infrastructure for the city like the Metro Line III car shed,” stated his letter to the CM
>> Moving the car shed would ensure the protection of nearly 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony
>> Two points at MbPT were proposed for the car shed
>> Point A (50-acre plot) can be connected to the station at Mahalaxmi with a 3-km tunnel
>> Or, Point B can be developed into a 100-acre shed and connect to the station near CST via a 1-km tunnel