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Metro work at Aarey: Locals file complaint against MMRC

Corporation carried out soil testing without requisite paperwork, in violation of NGT order

mumbai Updated: Apr 01, 2017 23:22 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Residents said the MMRC carried out soil testing with police protection at unit 19 on Thursday.
Residents said the MMRC carried out soil testing with police protection at unit 19 on Thursday.(HT Photo)

Concerned citizens and environmentalists filed a police complaint against the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) Limited at Aarey police station on Saturday, alleging that the corporation carried out work on the area’s no-development zone (NDZ), without the requisite paperwork.

A group of 36 citizens, comprising Aarey residents and members of the Aarey Conservation Group (ACG), said the MMRC carried out soil testing with police protection at unit 19 on Thursday, in violation of National Green Tribunal’s January order that issued an interim ban on all constructions.

MMRC plans to construct a car shed for the Metro 3 project at Aarey across a 33-hectare area. However, the NGT’s Pune bench has put an interim stay on any construction at the green lung until final orders are dictated on April 10.

Activists said trees near the construction site were marked to be felled in Aarey. (HT Photo)

“Aarey colony is a notified NDZ. The proposal by the state to convert Aarey from a NDZ to commercial zone has not yet been sanctioned. In view of this, no work, including soil testing, is permitted in the NDZ.The police department is supposed to stop illegal activities and not protect such acts,” read the complaint, which attached government documents identifying Aarey as an NDZ and the NGT status-quo order from January 17 restraining any construction.

The complaint further requested the police to stop such work and withdraw police protection. “Kindly lodge a first-information-report (FIR) against MMRC, its officers and contractors for carrying out the illegal work,” read the letter, a copy of which HT has.

Environmentalists said they told the police that they were facilitating the illegal activities at Aarey. “We requested the police to show us what permissions the MMRC took to start work at Aarey. They had nothing,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.

A cattle shed that currently houses 18 buffaloes will be razed to pave the way for the Metro 3 car shed. (HT Photo)

Activists said trees near the construction site were marked to be felled in Aarey. “We know what they are doing is illegal but since they have gone ahead and sought police protection, we thought the police should know what the facts are. We will present the issue before the court,” said Zoru Bathena, Khar resident and environmental activist.

Aarey police said they had taken cognisance of the complaint. “As of now, our officers have been instructed to give protection to MMRC contractors. If we find that the MMRC has no permissions, action will be taken against them,” said an officer from Aarey police station.

MMRC officials said all the permissions were in place. “MMRC conducts its business with the highest level of compliance to legal and regulatory requirements. All work undertaken by MMRC is in accordance with regulatory approvals. We want to assure the citizens and all stakeholders that we are committed towards adherence to the high standards of business and ethical conduct,” said an MMRC spokesperson.

Metro 3 will displace 160 people

The Metro 3 line, the car shed for which will be constructed at Aarey, will lead to the demolition of an existing structure that houses 160 people near unit 19. The demolition will pave the way for a ramp for the car-shed project

40 houses belonging to cattle shed owners across a 1.5-hectare area will be demolished

1 cattle shed with 18 buffaloes will be razed

500 trees will be felled

What do the cattle-shed owners say?

“A ramp for the car shed will be constructed by demolishing our homes. In 2014, after recurring visits to the MMRC office, we were told that we would be rehabilitated. Since then, no formal communication has happened. We do not know when the demolition will start and when we become homeless,” said Asim Nandolia, cattle shed owner and resident of one of the 40 houses.

“Residents have been living here for 66 years and working under the dairy development board. While we are not against the Metro project, we should at least be told about where we will stay once the project begins. Now that it has started, we have not received any formal communication yet,” said Chand Kumar Singh, cattle shed owner from Aarey.

What do the authorities say?

A senior MMRC official said the 40 houses come under the dairy development board, who must take responsibility and ensure that the cattle shed owners are rehabilitated

Aarey authorities passed the buck back to the state government. “We have not received any official communication from the state to rehabilitate them and we will only start the process once we are told to,” said Nathu Rathod, chief executive officer, Aarey.

Read

Mumbai Metro 3: Despite NGT’s interim ban, MMRCL tests soil at Aarey Colony

Aarey has been used for non-forest activities since 1949: Maharashtra tells NGT

MMRC says its new plan for Metro-3 car shed at Aarey Colony in Mumbai will help save trees