After being in cold storage for the past several months, the focus is once again back on the Aarey Colony metro depot, thanks to the ongoing Twitter war between Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) and green activists.
MMRC managing director Ashwini Bhide and activists opposing the depot in the colony were seen engaged in heated discussions on Twitter on Monday, with none of the parties ready to budge an inch from their original positions on the issue.
While MMRC officials claim that there is not any viable alternative for the 30-hectares Aarey Colony land, activists said they will not allow MMRC to chop a single tree in the colony. The development casts a doubt on a possible amiable breakthrough in the issue, which has already delayed the project.
According to those close to the development, things may turn ugly if the issue is not resolved soon. The MMRC has started actual construction work for the underground corridor of the 33.5km Colaba- Bandra-Seepz Metro 3. So it has to ensure that the depot is built soon to ensure the construction of the corridor is not affected.
Aarey Conservation Group, an umbrella body of protesters fighting against the hacking of 2,298 trees in the Colony, have demanded shifting the depot to Kanjurmarg and Kalina.
“We are against destruction of nature, and the metro depot will not just lead to tree cutting in the colony but it will open up the area for further construction activities. As far as we know, MMRC cannot go ahead with the construction of the depot as the matter is sub-judice. The MMRC can build a depot in Kanjurmarg along with small a stabling yard in the Mumbai University Campus in Kalina for smooth operations,” said D Stalin, environmentalist.
Meanwhile, Bhide said the Aarey Colony land is the only option available for the depot and it has been approved by the state government.
“The state government-appointed committee has found all other options unviable. We are trying to reduce the area of the depot to 20 hectares to minimise tree cutting. We are going to compensate the tree cutting by plantation and transplantation. In addition, the metro will reduce pollution substantially, thus, proving beneficial to the environment. We are open to everyone, including activists, to discuss the issue,” Bhide said.
Bhide said the onstruction is expected to start in six months, so the MMRC is going to invite tenders in the next two months.
Metro 3 project is planned through areas like Nariman Point, Cuff Parade, Worli, BKC, Airport, which are not connected by any suburban rail service.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing a loan worth Rs13,235 core for the project, which amount to 57% of the project cost of Rs 23,136 crore. It will charge an annual interest rate of 1.4%.
In July this year, the MMRC awarded contracts to five consortiums to build metro corridor and stations.
Controversies/ difficulties for Metro 3
Local residents of Aarey Colony and nature lovers had opposed the construction of a metro depot in the Aarey Colony saying it would lead to destruction of greenery and wildlife.
Political parties also jumped into the fray opposing any development activity in Aarey Colony
Green activists had suggested shifting the car depot to Kanjurmarg, Mumbai Port trust or Colaba by land reclamation.
Residents of Chirabazar, Kalbadevi and Girgaum have opposed demolition of their homes for construction of entry/exit points.