Grave Aarey: Ministry clears way for Mumbai Metro III

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 11:25 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav and Laxman Singh

In a major setback to the Save Aarey movement, ministry clears way for Mumbai Metro III car depot in city’s green lungs; NGT’s impending decision on matter remains only ray of hope

The proposed site for the Metro III car shed inside Aarey Milk Colony. File pic
The proposed site for the Metro III car shed inside Aarey Milk Colony. File pic

Aarey Colony will not be saved after all. In a setback to the ‘Save Aarey’ movement, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) has cleared the way for construction of a car depot for Metro III in Mumbai’s green lungs. In a notification issued on December 5, the ministry has allowed construction of the car shed under the rules and regulations laid down by the state government. The car depot is required for Mumbai’s first underground Metro corridor, a 33.5-kilometre stretch from Colaba to Seepz via Bandra.

Notification says
The ministry’s notification stated, “New construction projects such as Mumbai Metro Rail Shed, and creation of new civic amenities such as water supply-related infrastructure and facilities and operation and maintenance of infrastructure, facilities of civic amenities sanctioned by concerned local self-government under approved development plan under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, may be permitted within ESZ, subject to applicable rules and regulations.”

A few months ago, the expert committee set up by MoEF for finalizing an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) had given the approval for excluding 165 hectares for the metro car shed, when the MMRDA had asked for 60 hectares. The area includes private land and some slums.

The ministry had declared an ESZ around SGNP to conserve and protect the habitat in and around it. It is spread over an administrative area of 10,368 hectares of the park, while the notified area is 8,696 hectares with a minimum of 100 metres and up to four kilometres from the boundary of SGNP.

NGT decision final hope
The ministry’s decision comes at a time when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is hearing a plea filed by activists to not grant permissions to the upcoming shed. In August, NGO Vanshakti had filed complaint before the NGT after which the tribunal in its interim order had stayed any new construction in Aarey. The tribunal’s impending final decision on the issue now remains the only hope to save Aarey from the new construction.

The importance of NGT’s final decision is further justified in Point 8 in the ‘Terms of Reference’ paragraph of the notification states, “The provisions of this notification are subject to the orders, if any, passed, or to be passed, by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India or the High Court or National Green Tribunal (NGT).”

Activists slam move

Rajesh Sanap, wildlife researcher and photographer
‘We were expecting the colony to be shown as an Eco Sensitive Area, but it is unfortunate on the part of the MoEF to not mention the same, despite the fact that the area has the characteristics of a forest. We have full faith in the NGT and so, we expect no further construction to be allowed in Aarey.’

Stalin D, NGO Vanashakti, Save Aarey
‘This notification only exposes the priority of the government, which is to sell land to developers. NGT has asked for maintaining status quo in Aarey, which means there cannot be any new construction in the area. This also applies to the land issued for the car depot’.

Rishi Aggarwal, Save Aarey
‘The notification seems to selectively ignore the ecological elements in the proposed area for the car shed. It is an important floodwater catchment area for the Mithi River, besides showing movement of leopards. I hope MoEF corrects the same.’

Water activist Amla Ruia speaks to mid-day

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