Why Aarey, not other sites for Metro-3 car shed: SC to MMRCL
Why were sites other than the green lung of Aarey Colony not chosen for the Metro-3 car shed, the Supreme Court asked the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRCL) on Monday, taking up an issue that has been at the centre of protests by citizens and environmentalists who have been against the development. The Supreme Court has given the Metro authority a week to respond.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a special leave petition (SLP) filed by Amrita Bhattacharjee and Biju Augustine from the Aarey Conservation Group.
The petitioners pointed out that Mumbai’s development plan 2034 had opened up sites such as Bandra Reclamation, Backbay, Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and Kanjurmarg, but the MMRCL and the state chose to change land use rules for 33 hectares in Goregaon’s Aarey Colony — one of the city’s last remaining green spaces and a no-development zone — to build the car shed for the Metro-3 project.
In October, a Bombay high court (HC) division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice PD Naik dismissed the petition as development permissions had been obtained.
The HC had asked MMRCL to ensure there were no violations. The petitioners took the matter to SC in November.
“We filed an interim application before the SC and pointed out in one of our prayers (prayer B) that after the judgment of the Bombay HC, and the coming in of the development plan 2034, sites such as Bandra Reclamation, Backbay, Bandra Kurla Complex and Kanjurmarg had been opened up and the areas were reserved for social housing,” said Jatin Zaveri, counsel for the petitioners. “MMRCL and the technical committee studying the feasibility of the project rejected these sites.”
While MMRCL refused to comment on the matter, its counsel, Suchitra Chitale, confirmed the SC bench had asked MMRCL for a response regarding prayer B of the application.
The status of Aarey has been a concern for the past four years, ever since the proposal to build a carshed for the Metro-3 line (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) was proposed. Environmentalists have been fighting the matter at the National Green Tribunal, Bombay HC, and now the SC, calling the area a ‘forest’ that is home to rich biodiversity that faces threats from construction.
Last week, HT reported that Aarey is home to six leopards and three cubs; a new species of jumping spider was also discovered there.
“After four years of fighting in courts, this is a welcome order, and in line with what citizens have been suggesting. There are other viable options for the carshed, which will not affect the project. Therefore, there is no need to destroy a pristine forest like Aarey,” said Bhattacharjee.
Stalin D, director, Vanashakti, assisting the petitioner said they will submit documents to prove MMRCL never explored other options for the car shed. “This is an example for needless destruction in the guise of development for the public.”
The matter has been listed for next Monday (April 8).