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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Bombay HC stops Metro 3 work, respite for 2 Parsi fire temples

The court temporarily stopped Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation from tunneling or excavating areas beneath the two Atash Behrams in south Mumbai; has appointed panel to study impact of work.

mumbai Updated: Jul 26, 2018 12:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Wadiaji Atash Behram at Princess Street.
Wadiaji Atash Behram at Princess Street.(HT File Photo)

The Bombay high court on Wednesday temporarily stopped the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) from tunneling or excavating areas beneath two Atash Behrams — the holiest Parsi fire temples — in South Mumbai, saying any damage caused to the structures could create an irreversible situation. The court has now appointed an expert panel to study if the construction work will affect the temples, and has scheduled the next hearing on August 6.

The MMRCL is building the Mumbai Metro-3 line in the area.

A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla issued the restraint, and also took into consideration the fact that neither the state government nor the MMRCL had consulted an independent expert to assess if the construction work could cause damage to the two religious places.

Acting on a petition filed by one Jamshed Sukhdawala, who has been a key petitioner, the court also appointed the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) as an expert agency to study the possible effect of the construction of both the metro line and the proposed Kalbadevi station, on the Zoroastrian temples.

The VJTI team will submit its report in court in 10 days.

Sukhdawala has sought a realignment of the line, pointing to dangers to the structural stability of the Zarthosti Anjuman and the HB Wadiaji Atash Behrams.

He also said the underground tunnelling work was also likely to cause the wells at these holy shrines to run dry.

According to the petitioner, the Atash Behrams were regarded as the holiest shrines by the community, and only six other such shrines exist across the globe. He told the court that any damage to these would cause irreparable harm to the community. He also claimed that a ceiling of the Jer Mahal Annexe, a building in the Kalbadevi area, had collapsed because of the tunnelling and construction work.

MMRCL has, however, denied the charge saying when the incident took place at the Jer Mahal Annexe on April 2, the tunnelling work was taking place 116 metres away, and hence could not be attributed as a reason for the damage. The body also said, in an affidavit to the court in response to the petition, that it has undertaken construction after exercising extreme due diligence, and after a detailed protocol was laid down to protect the heritage structures from the impact of tunnelling and excavation. It added that the petitioner’s apprehensions were “mere speculations, not based on facts”.

On the wells of the Atash Behrams drying up, MMRCL said there was sufficient vertical and horizontal gap between the metro tunnel and the wells. It said the metro tunnel was 15 feet away from the Zartoshi Anjuman Atash Behram and 42 feet away from HB Wadiaji Atash Behram. Besides, the wells were placed in the upper soft crust at, a depth of about 20 feet, while the tunnelling work was taking place at a depth of 60-65 feet.

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 10:28 IST

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