Mumbai: Metro III plan will not change, says MMRC chairman

MMRC chairman Ashwini Bhide said that while the fate of the car depot is yet to be decided by the CM’s special committee, the Metro alignment cannot be changed at this late juncture

Despite growing opposition to the Metro Line III from both project affected people and environmentalists who are demanding that its alignment be changed, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) chairman Ashwini Bhide made it clear yesterday that it is no longer possible to make any changes to the plans at this juncture.

Hundreds joined the fight to save 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony that will make way for the Metro yard site. The strong opposition to the plan prompted the CM to instate a special panel to search for alternative sites for the car depot. File pic
Hundreds joined the fight to save 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony that will make way for the Metro yard site. The strong opposition to the plan prompted the CM to instate a special panel to search for alternative sites for the car depot. File pic

Metro III has met with resistance from several quarters, most notably from environmentalists who objected to plans to axe 2,298 trees in Aarey Colony to build the car depot there, as well as south Mumbai residents who fear that it will gobble up open spaces, apart from displacing many from their homes.

mid-day has been covering both issues steadily, and had reported earlier that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had instructed a special panel to search for alternative sites (‘Find other sites for Metro car depot, CM tells experts’, March 3).

What about Aarey?
When asked about the yard site’s relocation, however, Bhide skirted the issue and only said, “The CM has appointed an expert committee to look into the issue of the car depot at Aarey and suggest the possible alternatives. It will not be right on my part to make any comment regarding the issue.

All I want to say is that at present there is no work that is being carried out at the car depot site.” Bhide was speaking at a media interaction jointly organised by the Mumbai Press Club and the NGO Mumbai First, where the pros and cons of the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro corridor were being discussed.

Transport experts, citizens, representatives of project affected people (PAPs), environmentalists and journalists took part in the two-hour interaction, where Bhide also made a presentation about the project. She tried to explain how the project would transform the lives of people travelling in Mumbai and would help in infrastructure development, but citizens did not seem satisfied.

‘Too late’
When a south Mumbai resident suggested that the project’s alignment be changed at the southern end of the corridor so that more people can benefit from it, Bhide said it was not possible.

“At this stage, it is not possible to make any changes in alignment because we will have to go back to the drawing board again, which is not possible now. All I want to say is that the project has been planned keeping all the aspects in the mind. The government has conducted a lot of studies, after which this alignment was finalised,” she said.

Another person questioned whether the authorities had taken citizens into consideration while planning the project, to which Bhide responded, “Right from the start, everything related to the project was in public domain, and it was only after consulting the public that the alignment was finalised.

There cannot be any changes to the alignment now, but optimisations can be made based on suggestions that are possible to implement.” She further explained in her presentation that the MMRC had originally considered five locations for the car shed’s site Backbay Reclamation in Colaba, an underground facility below Mahalakshmi Racecourse, the MMRDA exhibition ground at BKC, the Mumbai University area in Kalina, and Aarey Milk Colony.

“In Colaba, adequate land was not available and we would have had to reclaim land, which the MoEF (Ministry of Environment, Forests) does not allow. In Mahalakshmi and BKC, there were other problems. In Kalina, Mumbai University has plans for expansion, and so, we had only one option Aarey,” Bhide added.

'For your benefit'
“People should understand that the project is for their benefit, as it will provide them with a world-class experience.

MMRC chairman Ashwini Bhide
MMRC chairman Ashwini Bhide

People think that our project will take away open spaces, but we require very less area for the construction of the entry and exit to the stations,” said MMRC chairman Ashwini Bhide.

Know Metro III
>> Metro III will be completely underground
>> Only the car depot will be over ground 
>> The cost of the project is R23,136 crore cost of the entire project
>> 57.2 per cent of the amount will come as a soft loan from the Japan Cooperation International Agency (JICA)
>> 1,473 trees will be felled across all station sites
>> 2,298 trees could be axed at Aarey Milk Colony for the car depot
>> 2,614 structures will be affected, of which 1,889 are residential, 603 are commercial, 47 are residential-cum-commercial and 75 are others

No depot at port trust
Indirectly ruling out the possibility of relocating the car depot to Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) land an option preferred by environmentalists Bhide said the area fell in the middle of the corridor and it would only be feasible to build the yard at either end of the line. “Having the depot somewhere in the middle requires additional ramps and a separate track, and already there are so many space constraints,” she added.

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