As fight over Kanjurmarg drags on, Metro eyes third option for depot

Published on Apr 20, 2022 10:30 PM IST

As the matter of the ownership is currently in court, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) said that it has started looking for a third option to construct the depot

Meanwhile, the issue of the car depot has become political, with both the BJP and MVA engaging in a war of words, resulting in a cost escalation of around <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>10,000 crore (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
Meanwhile, the issue of the car depot has become political, with both the BJP and MVA engaging in a war of words, resulting in a cost escalation of around 10,000 crore (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
ByMehul R Thakkar

Mumbai Almost three years after the Maharashtra government decided to move the Metro-3 car depot from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg, it has failed to materialise the plan as the central government has claimed ownership of the Kanjurmarg land.

As the matter of the ownership is currently in court, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) said that it has started looking for a third option to construct the depot.

According to officials, they may explore three options- depot at Pahadi Goregaon, multiple mini depots, or constructing one in south Mumbai.

Meanwhile, the issue of the car depot has become political, with both the BJP and MVA engaging in a war of words, resulting in a cost escalation of around 10,000 crore.

After assuming office in November 2019, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray announced moving the Colaba-Seepz Metro-3 corridor outside Aarey Colony. In January 2020, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government constituted a four-member committee headed by additional chief secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik to find alternative land for the depot.

However, the committee in its report stated that there is no other viable option apart from Aarey Colony. The committee also rejected Kanjurmarg. Despite the report, Thackeray in October 2020 announced relocation of Metro-3 car depot to Kanjurmarg. He also announced that an integrated depot can be constructed for two Metro lines including Metro-3 and Metro-6.

However, the Bombay high court (HC) in December 2020 put a stay on the construction of the depot in Kanjurmarg. This was after the central government filed a petition citing that the land at Kanjurmarg is owned by the salt pan department, while the state claimed that they owned it.

BJP versus MVA

Ever since the MVA decided to shift the car depot outside Aarey Colony, there has been a war of words between the BJP and the MVA. Former chief minister and leader of opposition in Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis has blamed the state government for the cost escalation.

Meanwhile, Thackeray hit out at the central government for blocking the acquisition of land at Kanjurmarg. About two weeks ago, the HC also appealed to both the central and state governments to find a solution.

In a letter on March 17, the central government had said that it would not be a prudent decision to shift the location of car shed when the project is in a significantly advanced stage and that combined depot plans would bring operational and maintenance bottlenecks.

What is the solution now?

The state government has also been exploring options to shift the car depot to Pahadi Goregaon, but the land they are looking at is also under litigation. According to officials, if both Kanjurmarg and Aarey Colony are not an option, the only feasible one is Pahadi Goregaon.

The official said, “If not Pahadi Goregaon, we may have to explore options in south Mumbai or BKC. But these are costly options. Why will we spend thousands of crores on land for the Metro depot when we can get land for 400 to 500 crore?”

“Another option is to have more than one Metro-3 depots on smaller land plots, but this will again increase the project cost. This will also mean we will have to search for more than one land parcel, and currently there is no such availability,” the official added.

SVR Srinivas, managing director of the MMRC, said, “My job is to find a solution. We are working on all options. If we have to move the depot out of Kanjurmarg, we will announce it soon.”

He added, “It is not that the Metro-3 is delayed due to lack of a depot, but even if we consider we had the depot ready, we would require around two years to make the metro operational.”

Experts speak

Meanwhile, experts maintain that considering the majority of the trees have been cut at the site of Aarey Colony, the construction of the depot should be at Aarey itself. The MMRC in 2019 had informed the Supreme Court that it has cut 2,141 trees out of the 2,185 trees required to be cut for depot after getting permissions from the relevant authorities.

Paresh Rawal, a public policy (Mobility Specialist), said, “The easiest solution would be to construct the depot at Aarey Colony. More than 90% of the trees have been cut already. By delaying this project, we are now polluting the environment and spending more money.”

He added, “Also, other Metro corridors make sense only if Metro-3 is made available timely. This includes the recently made operational Metro-7 and Metro-2A corridor on Western Express Highway and Link Road.”

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