After the Uddhav Thackeray govt in Maharashtra decided to shift the metro car shed from Aarey milk colony to Kanjurmarg, BJP leader and former Devendra Fadnavis sharply criticised the move, saying the decision was taken just to satisfy ego. He also said that this decision will increase the cost of the project by at least Rs 4000 crore, which was estimated by a committee appointed by the current government, and the project will also be delayed by several years due to ongoing litigation and the condition of the new site.
Uddhav Thackeray claims new site will cost Rs 0
Earlier in the day, the Maharashtra government had declared the area where the metro car shed was planed as forest land, and said that now the facility will come up at a government land in Kanjurmarg. “The Aarey car shed will be moved to Kanjurmarg. We have allotted government land for the car shed for Rs 0. We won’t spend a single rupee for acquiring this land,” he said.
Along with this, the state govt also dropped all the charges against the protesters who had tried to stop the car shed project. Almost 808 acres of land in the area has been proposed to be declared as a reserve forest. Aaditya Thackeray informed that the land at Kanjurmarg has already been handed over to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority last week. He said that it will cost Rs 0, and not more than Rs 10,000 core as it was told.
Last year before the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the car shed at Aarey milk colony had become a major political issue, with left wing activists and Shiv Sena vehemently opposing it, saying that it is a forest area and the project will destroy the ecology. Even though the metro project will result in substantial improvement in environment by removing lakhs of fossil fuel guzzling vehicles from the roads, the project was opposed due to political reasons. Both Bombay High Court and Supreme Court of India had given go ahead to the project, rejecting multiple petitions against it. Accordingly, the Mumbai Metro Corporation had cut 2141 trees in the area, out of designated 2185, in October last year to clear the site.
After that the work on the shed had started, but after the assembly elections Shiv Sena broke the alliance with BJP and joined hands with Congress and NCP to form the govt, after which the new govt had immediately stopped the work, announcing that the facility will be built at some other place.
Devendra Fadnavis refutes the claims of CM Uddhav Thackeray
Devendra Fadnavis refuted the claim of CM Uddhav Thackeray that the new site will cost Rs 0, saying that actually it will cost at least Rs 4000. This is because, the site is under litigation, with a private party claiming its ownership. The former CM informed that the Kanjurmarg site was considered during his govt before finalising Aarey. The site was rejected because of the litigation.
The private parties had obtained a stay order from Bombay High Court on govt acquiring the land in 1996 itself. When the govt requested the court to lift the stay, the court also said that the govt has to deposit the amount before that, so that the amount can be paid to the private parties in the case the govt loses the case. Devendra Fadnavis said that the amount was Rs 2400 crore in 2015, which have increased now.
In addition to the litigation, the entire process will have to be restarted. Earlier tenders will have to be cancelled and a new process started. Moreover, DPR was also not prepared for the proposed new site, which will add significant time to the project.
The former CM also added that the Kanjurmarg site is marshy land, and it will take least two years to stabilise it. He also asked who will be responsible for the delay of the project if someone moves the Supreme Court against it.
“This means that the Metro project, which would have been in the service of Mumbaikars just next year, has now been postponed indefinitely. ₹400 crore was already spent for Aarey Car Shed, ₹1300 crore wasted due to staying of project & additional cost escalation of ₹4000 crore”, he added.
Fadnavis said that due to these reasons, the Metro project will be delayed indefinity. “What exactly does the state Govt want to achieve by blocking the seamless journey of Mumbaikars?” he asked.
Committee set up by Uddhav Thackeray govt had said shifting car shed from Aarey would not viable
It may be noted that a committee set up by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in December had 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. It had recommended lifting the stay on construction of the Mumbai Metro Line 3 car shed at Aarey Milk Colony. The high-level committee had 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.
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 considered two alternative locations to build the metro car shed. One was the 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 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.