Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) is likely to return its original plan of building a metro depot in Aarey Colony as it does not expect to be able to acquire an alternative plot in Kanjurmarg anytime soon.
The governing board of the MMRC, a joint venture of the state government and central governments, which is building the Colaba-Seepz Metro 3 line, held a meeting on Saturday to discuss various issues concerning the project. At the meeting, MMRC directors are said to have discussed various options of building a metro depot in Aarey Colony.
While senior bureaucrats, including MMRC managing director Ashwini Bhide, refused to divulge details of the meeting, a source told Hindustan Times that the board decided to revert to the Aarey Colony plan as waiting for the alternative plot at Kanjurmarg would delay the project, owing to legal and administrative procedures involved, and possibly increase the cost of the project significantly as well.
The MMRC board discussed the possibility of building the depot on 24 hectares in Aarey Colony as a two-level depot (which would use less land) was technically unviable.
The idea of a two-level depot was suggested by a committee appointed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis following protests by various groups opposed to the use of Aarey Colony, one of the few remaining green patches in Mumbai, for the depot.
A senior bureaucrat from the urban development department said, “According to the committee’s recommendations, we can go back to the Aarey Colony plan if we are unable to get an alternate. Now, the board will decide the next step before approaching the chief minister.”
The 33.5k-m Metro 3 will start at Colaba and pass through the airport and through areas poorly connected by public transport, before ending at Seepz.
Following protests by environmentalists and local residents against building the depot in Aarey Colony, Fadnavis had in February last year set up a committee to look into the issue.
The committee asked the government to consider Kanjurmarg, Dharavi, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), Bandra-Kurla Complex and the Mumbai University campus at Kalina as possible alternatives.
One recommendation was to build a car depot at Kanjurmarg and 16 stabling lines on 10-20 hectares in Aarey Colony to minimise the environmental impact. Another was a two-level depot on 20 hectares in Aarey Colony if the state failed to acquire the Kanjurmarg plot on time.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have threatened more agitations if MMRC decides to build he depot at Aarey Colony.
Environmentalist D Stalin said, “Since the matter is sub judice, MMRC cannot take any decision about the metro depot at Aarey Colony. We will hold protests if MMRC goes ahead with its plan. This entire exercise by MMRC is aimed at opening up Aarey Colony to builders.”