A committee set up by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in December has recommended lifting the stay on construction of the Mumbai Metro Line 3 car shed at Aarey Milk Colony.
Reportedly, the committee has said that shifting the car shed site from Aarey would not be viable. The committee has cited issues such as increased costs, logistical issues and delays in the completion to rule out the option of shifting the project to another location.
The high-level committee has also recommended that the state government should notify the unbuilt green areas inside the colony as a no-construction belt, preserving it like a protected forest.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray some weeks ago had appointed a high-level committee to look at possible alternative sites for building a car shed on the 33.5 km long Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Mumbai metro line.
The four-man committee was set up on December 11 headed by the Additional Finance Secretary of Maharashtra. The other members were Principal Secretary (Environment) Anil Diggikar, Managing Director (Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation) RS Khurana and Chief Conservator of Forest (Sanjay Gandhi National Park) Anwar Ahmed.
The committee had also considered two alternative locations to build the metro car shed. One was a marsh at Kanjurmarg where the Line 6 (Jogeshwari-Kanjurmag) car shed was being built. The second site that was looked at was a State Reserve Police camp just outside Aarey at Jogeshwari. However, both were found to be not feasible.
The panel after conducting site visits ruled that the shifting of the car shed would involve logistical and legal challenges, bringing further delays in the commissioning of the Metro corridor. The Metro 3 service was originally proposed to be operational from December 2020, it has already been pushed back by a year.
The committee also argued that shifting the car shed at this stage would lead to a further delay in the project’s commissioning and cause cost escalations. In 2015, the project was worth Rs 23,000 crore with the MMRCL, which was supposed to be funded by off-budget borrowings. As per MMRCL, delay of each day in the project’s commissioning increases the cost by Rs 4.2 crore.
The Metro car shed project at Aarey has been a battleground between environmentalists, who are allegedly backed by vested interests and the Mumbai Metro Rail authorities, ever since the plans were first drawn up in 2015. The previous government led by Devendra Fadanvis in an overnight operation on October 4, 2019, had ordered to fell 2,141 trees at the proposed 33-hectare site, following a Bombay High Court verdict.
However, the Shiv Sena, then a partner in a BJP-led state government, had actively backed the so-called environmentalist and had lent a political voice to those protesting the felling of the trees. Sena prince Aaditya Thackeray, now the state environment minister, had opposed the Aarey project, claiming that the project would damage flora and fauna in the Aarey Milk colony.
Soon after returning to power, Shiv Sena by joining hands with NCP and Congress allegedly indulged in vendetta politics and cancelled most of the projects that were earlier initiated by the previous Devendra Fadanvis government. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had also ordered a halt on the Metro Car Shed construction at Aarey.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi blocked funds and halted major infrastructure and development projects undertaken by the previous government to further narrow political goals.