Activists fighting to save Aarey Colony’s green cover are one step closer to their goal, with the CM-appointed expert committee recommending that Metro III’s car depot be built not in Aarey but at Kanjurmarg instead
In a major victory for activists fighting to save Aarey Milk Colony from the controversial Metro III, the expert committee — appointed by the Chief Minister to review the project — has recommended that the Metro car depot be built not in Aarey, but at Kanjurmarg instead. This will also have the added advantage of connecting western and eastern Metro corridors. While the final report is yet to be submitted to the CM, one of the members on the panel confirmed this development to mid-day.
The Metro III project attracted considerable controversy after it was proposed that the car depot would be built in Aarey Colony, displacing 2,298 trees and threatening the rich local biodiversity there. mid-day has run a sustained campaign on this issue, following which many NGOs and political parties also came forward to form pressure groups.
Then in March, CM Devendra Fadnavis formed the expert panel, led by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) chief UPS Madan, to study the project and suggest alternative locations for the car shed (‘Find other sites for Metro car depot, CM tells experts’, mid-day, March 3).
Activists said the likely location identified in Kanjurmarg is sized about 50 acres and is situated by the Eastern Express highway and at the end of JVLR.
When asked, Fadnavis said no final decision has been taken as yet. Sources said the committee’s report would be submitted to him next week. Sources said the government and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) would have to factor in the additional cost for building an extension of the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz corridor to Kanjurmarg.
The 33.5-km corridor is already set to be one of the city’s costliest infrastructure projects at Rs 23,136 crore. The extension to Kanjurmarg is likely to add 9-12 km to the project, and with the cost per kilometre working out to be Rs 690.6 crore for the entire project, the extra financial burden will be whopping, said sources.
This move will not only protect the Aarey greens, but will also serve to connect the western and eastern Metro corridors for commuters’ benefit. While car depot can be connected to Seepz via an elevated stretch on Metro III, it can also serve the Wadala-Ghatkopar-Thane-Kasarvadavali corridor (Metro IV) and so offer better connectivity to commuters from Powai and other areas.
When the city’s green activists were called in for hearing by the committee in June, Kanjurmarg was one of the alternative locations suggested by them, amongst other options such as barren land in Bandra-Kurla Complex, land next to the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, and controlled reclamation in Cuffe Parade.
They had objected to plans to axe 2,298 trees in Aarey, some of which are rare trees such as Baobabs aged over 100 years. Environmentalists were also concerned about the threat to protected species that find shelter in the woodland and grassland at the proposed Metro site in Aarey, including leopards, Indian rock pythons and more. The green activists also opposed the MMRC’s plan to transplant trees to make up for this loss, and said that the survival rate for transplanted trees was poor. The MMRC had promised that 10 times the number of trees to be cut would be planted in Aarey and looked after, in case the car shed came up there.
“We expect the government to soon make an official announcement that the car depot is being shifted to Kanjurmarg from Aarey. The location at Kanjurmarg, on either side of JVLR is the best place for it. There, the car depot will not cause any damage to environment and the extension of Metro line will boost east-west connectivity. Most welcome decision,” said activist Stalin Dayanand from the NGO Vanashakti, who has long been associated with the Save Aarey movement.
Anand Pendharkar, Environmentalist, NGO SPROUTS
We want the government to come out with a notification; only after this we will trust that the car depot is really being shifted. Shifting the depot to Kanjurmarg will help protect the rich biodiversity of Aarey. Aarey acts as a buffer zone to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, so there is also a wildlife corridor from there to the national park. This move will also help prevent human-leopard conflict.
Manish Gadia, Wildlife photographer and Save Aarey activist
We are relieved that the government realised the importance of retaining green zones in the city. Metro yard and other projects would have lead to irreparable damage to the valuable green zone and we hope that the government reviews other projects too that might affect Aarey.
Stalin Dayanand, NGO Vanashakti
We are thankful to the government for respecting the wishes of the people. It’s a victory for the environment and for all citizens, NGOs who stood together and fought this battle. Unnecessary damage to the environment has been avoided.
— Inputs by Ranjeet Jadhav
mid-day had uncovered how the MMRC underplayed the rich biodiversity in Aarey Colony, going as far as to say there was ‘no wildlife’ at the Metro site.
Since then, this paper has carried a steady stream of reports about wildlife sighted in the area, and activists’ efforts to have the controversial Metro car depot moved elsewhere.