Metro Bhavan work begins at Aarey Colony; greens fume
Metro Bhavan has been planned as the headquarters for the city’s Metro network. The 32-storey centre will control 14 lines (13 proposed and one functional) in and around Mumbai – a network of 337 km.Updated: Oct 15, 2019, 09:25 IST
The dairy department, which manages Aarey Milk Colony, has permitted the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to begin construction work for the 32-storey Metro Bhavan, which is likely to require the felling of at least 70 trees on the allotted plot. While environmentalists have alleged this plot is in an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), Aarey authorities say “the natural ecology outside the allotted plot” will not be affected by the construction.
Metro Bhavan has been planned as the headquarters for the city’s Metro network. The 32-storey centre will control 14 lines (13 proposed and one functional) in and around Mumbai – a network of 337 km. According to a letter dated October 11, the dairy department authorised MMRDA to initiate construction for the building on the 2.03 hectare (ha) plot reserved for Metro Bhavan and Metro Rail-allied users. This letter was accessed by environment group Vanashakti and has been reviewed by HT.
Signed by Nathu Rathod, chief executive officer, Aarey, the letter says, “land parcel 589 may undergo soil testing for proposed Metro Bhavan construction as per requisite regulations and norms including – work only allowed on parcel 589, ensuring necessary permissions for construction, work should not lead to encroachment or hamper environment in any manner etc”.
Confirming the development, Rathod said MMRDA had applied for permission to start work following the recent protests against tree-cutting for the Metro-3 car shed, which led to section 144 being imposed in the area. “Permission was granted to start construction as the land already belongs to MMRDA. However, we issued specific conditions that all updates of construction need to be submitted to this office, and the natural ecology outside the allotted plot should not be affected in any manner. Our staff will see to this,” said Rathod.
MMRDA said it welcomed the permission from the authorities at Aarey. “There are, however, several other permissions and procedures to be completed before we can start construction. So work is not going to start immediately,” an MMRDA official said.
Environmentalists have alleged that the plot for Metro Bhavan is within the ESZ of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and more areas within Aarey may be hived off in this manner. “If citizens don’t wake up, Aarey will be gone before anyone knows it,” said Stalin D, director, Vanshakti.
In August, the state urban development department had issued a notification changing the land-use of the 2.03ha plot, which was previously in a no-development zone, to allow the construction of Metro Bhavan and allied structures, including a permanent re-servicing station, a temporary labour camp and a steel machinery yard. Additionally, the Maharashtra government last week sanctioned a zoological park across 76.8ha and the state forest department plans to rehabilitate encroachments within SGNP across a 36.42ha plot within Aarey.