Two years after the state government signed an agreement with Reliance Infrastructure for building a metro network in the city, the 32-km Charkop–Bandra– Mankhurd line is very close to being put off altogether.
The entire project, which should have been operational by 2011, is facing seemingly insurmountable problems with the state government and the agency overseeing its construction, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), failing to get the requisite clearances so that construction can start.
The major problem is the land for carsheds at Charkop and Mankhurd, essential for starting work. However, MMRDA officials learnt only after selecting the bidder that the land falls under coastal regulation zone, and no work is permitted on it.
The Union environment ministry has so far refused to give clearance for the depots. “We have sent letters to the Centre and environment ministry. We are waiting for their response,” Metropolitan commissioner Rahul Asthana said. The MMRDA has promised an alternate plot, but there has been no action on it so far.
R-Infra had even shot off a letter to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in November asking him to address these issues, but to little avail. To make matters worse, chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad held a review meeting of the second metro line in February without inviting Reliance to the meeting.
MMRDA officials claim in private that constructing an elevated metro line in a crowded city like Mumbai is not feasible. However, the state and MMRDA seem hesitant in taking a decision as they feel scrap the project in favour of an underground line will create a controversy.
Reliance, meanwhile, said the project will go ahead. “We are committed to the project. We are waiting for the government to resolve the pending critical issues,” an R-Infra official said.