New panel on Mumbai Metro a farce, Maharashtra govt creating false narrative on Aarey, says Fadnavis
In a letter to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, former state chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis alleged on Thursday that the state government is being misled by a few officials on the issue of the car shed for Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz). Fadnavis also said the committee formed by the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to find an alternative site for the car shed is a farce and the state is creating a false narrative when it claims that the plot in Aarey Milk Colony would be insufficient by 2031. Fadnavis said the state must take immediate steps to re-start work at the Aarey plot and act against those misleading the state.
The site for the Metro-3 car shed has been a contentious issue with activists protesting that a car shed in Aarey would damage Mumbai’s last green lung. While a state-appointed committee said half a dozen alternative sites were unsuitable, the MVA government decided to shift the car shed to a plot in Kanjurmarg in December 2020, which revived a four-decade-old tug of war between the Centre and state over the ownership of salt pan lands in Mumbai.
Recently, MVA set up a third committee to look at the right plot between Aarey and Kanjurmarg, but Fadnavis described this as “a farce”. Addressing the media on Thursday, he said, “The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has already prepared the report in favour of Kanjurmarg and this committee is only going to sanction it.” He also said that almost 400 trees would be cut if the depot is built at Kanjurmarg. “It will increase the project cost by ₹4,000 crore plus delay the project,” he said.
In a letter to Thackeray, Fadnavis said the Aarey plot was identified for the Metro-3 car depot on the basis of population estimates till 2053. He said the technical committee had allocated 30 hectares (ha) in Aarey for the depot, of which, 25ha would be utilised in the first phase, for 42 trains of eight coaches each, which would be “sufficient for 8-10 years post-2031”. “Between 2031-53, 13 trains of eight cars each will be dispatched in phases based on travel demand. For this, 1.5ha of the remaining 5ha will be utilised. This area has around 160 trees which will be transplanted in phases,” wrote Fadnavis.
In an address to the state in December 2020, Thackeray had said that the Aarey plot would be insufficient for Metro-3 by 2031 while the Kanjurmarg plot, spread across 102 acres, can accommodate depots for three Metro lines (3, 4 and 6).
Fadnavis described this integration as “impractical”. “In such a scenario, building a car depot almost 8kms from Aarey will increase the overall cost of the project. Moreover, different Metro routes operate at different times and the signalling system is also different. The integration will only add to the financial burden,” he said.
Metro-3 was expected to be partly operational in 2021, but officials estimate there will be a delay of at least three to four years if the car depot is relocated to Kanjurmarg.
In his three-page letter, Fadnavis also alleged that the state is in talks with private claimants of the land to allow them to use some of the area for residential and commercial purposes. “The previous government had received a proposal to build 1 lakh houses for the poor under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana on the same land. The government had also appointed a committee on this. However, it was later found that these places were leased to salt pans. Hence, the land is with the Central government now,” he said.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson and general secretary Sachin Sawant said, “We request Mr Fadnavis to keep politics aside and instead tell the Central government to withdraw their ownership claim. Earlier, the Centre was ready to give land though the Kanjurmarg plot belongs to the state government. BJP should stop creating hindrances in MVA’s development works.”
Meanwhile, the nine-member committee appointed by the state government had a meeting on Thursday. Sources privy to the meeting said that the committee is likely to submit its report in the coming week to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. The committee had recently visited both, Aarey and Kanjurmarg sites.