A week after citizen groups met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis over cutting of trees for the Metro 3 project, environmentalists met Fadnavis on Saturday requesting to shift the construction of the Metro car-shed from Aarey Colony, Goregaon to an alternative location.
Stalin Dayanand, director, non-government organisation (NGO) Vanashakti requested the CM to consider Kalina as an alternative site for the Metro car-shed.
“In a 20-minute meeting with the chief minister, we explained to him the importance of Aarey Colony and if the land was open to construction for the metro car-shed, it would fall susceptible to further development,” said Dayanand. “The CM responded that as per a new design by the state government, only 350 trees will be affected at Aarey and that they would be transplanted for a 20 hectare (ha) double decker Metro car-shed.”
Stalin added that a 30-ha plot was available at Kalina but the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) had not seen it as a viable option. “The CM responded by dialing MMRCL officials to consider Kalina as an alternative. He also asked them to set up a meeting with environmentalists who were present for the meeting, to explore this site for the construction of the car-shed,” Dayanand said. He added that the CM assured the environmentalists that the land-use for Aarey Colony, which is a ‘no-development zone’ currently, would not be changed to ‘commercial’ under any circumstances.
On February 14, Fadnavis had assured citizens that maximum number of trees will be protected during the Metro 3 project construction after south Mumbai residents Nina Verma, Pervin Jehangir and Khar resident Zoru Bhathena, all filed petitions before the Bombay high court on various matters regarding the Metro 3 project. Fadnavis had directed MMRCL to set up an internal committee to look into the issue and make sure that minimal number of trees is cut for the project.
Meanwhile, MMRCL officials said that they have not received any direction from the CM’s office so far. “Kalina was considered as a part of the detailed project report (DPR) for the Metro 3 project; it falls under the Mumbai University land and may not be viable. The environmentalists might have met the CM but we have not received any instructions from the CM’s office. Once we receive the order, we will take a look at it,” said R Ramana, executive director (planning), MMRCL.
In the past
On December 19, the NGT Pune bench passed an interim order implementing a stay on all construction at Aarey Colony, including the construction of Metro III car-shed by MMRCL on the 30-hectare land. The stay was extended to March 15 on Friday by the NGT bench after the forest department failed to produce papers that the tribunal had asked for.
The tribunal was hearing a petition filed in 2015 by environment groups Vanashakti and Aarey Conservation Group (ACG, seeking protection of the Aarey landscape and maintaining it as a no-development zone. However, on January 5, NGT had accepted MMRCL’s plea to construct a casting yard on 3-hectare land, allotted by the state at Aarey, for the metro III project from Colaba to SEEPZ Andheri, subject to mandatory clearances.