After waiting nearly three years for work to begin on the Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd Metro line, the state has finally cracked the whip against Reliance Infrastructure, the contractor for the project, threatening disciplinary action if work is not begun immediately.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on September 6 wrote to RInfra, asking it to commence work at the earliest. The agency had said on several occasions that it will nudge Reliance into action. "You are once again requested to commence construction immediately on the available hindrance-free stretches handed over to you. Otherwise, the MMRDA may be constrained to initiate action as per provisions of the concession agreement, without prejudice to our rights to claim damages for delay in commencement of the second Metro line," said SVR Srinivas, additional metropolitan commissioner, in the letter to Metro project head Neeraj Jain.
However, the MMRDA did not address RInfra's concerns over lack of adequate green clearances for the project - which the company has cited as the reason for delay. The absence of problem-free land for a car depot at Charkop and Mankhurd has been a major roadblock. The car depot plots identified by MMRDA fall under the coastal regulatory zone, for which the agency sought environment clearance. The ministry had only given conditional clearance. The agency has also been unable to tackle opposition from residents for the elevated Metro line.
The MMRDA in its letter claimed it has handed over 20-km of land without impediments to Reliance, including continuous stretches of two to five km for construction. "It is painful to point out that the prestigious project that city residents are eagerly waiting has yet to begin construction," the letter states.
In November 2011, RInfra had written to CM Prithviraj Chavan, stating the Metro line could becoming unviable owing to bureaucratic delays. Reliance officials claim it's impossible to start work without land for the depot. They said building the depot as per the environment ministry's conditions would increase project costs manifold.
The MMRDAs and Reliance's stand on the project is seen as public posturing before the deal is called off. "Commencement of work requires appropriate redressal of issues," an RIfra spokesperson said.