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Metro car shed in Mumbai to move from Aarey to Kanjurmarg

Environmentalists welcome decision; 800 acres in Aarey declared as forest area; cases against protesters to be dropped: Maharashtra CM

October 11, 2020 02:34 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 07:10 am IST - Mumbai

Not enough:  The committee said the car shed site in Aarey colony has a buildable area of only 23 hectares.

Not enough: The committee said the car shed site in Aarey colony has a buildable area of only 23 hectares.

Fulfilling one of its promises in the Shiv Sena election manifesto, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday announced the shifting of the Metro car shed from the Aarey forest area in the western suburbs to a government plot in Kanjurmarg in the eastern suburbs at “zero cost”.

“We all are aware of the Metro car shed construction issues at Aarey. They were raised even before the Assembly elections last year. I was not the Chief Minister then but was heading the party contesting the elections, and we opposed the plan at that time,” Mr. Thackeray said in a webcast.

“The car shed will now be moved to Kanjurmarg. So questions will arise as to who will bear these costs. Let me make this clear today. The State government has allotted the land for Metro for “zero rupees”,” he said.

The Chief Minister said the move to build the car shed at Aarey had seen a lot of protests, agitations, cutting of trees at night, and charges filed against protesters. “The Cabinet has decided to drop all charges filed against the protesters striving to protect the environment,” he added.

Mr. Thackeray said the building which has come up in the Aarey site will be utilised for some other public purpose. “About ₹100 crore expenditure was incurred for the purpose and it won’t go waste,” he said.

Nearly 800 acres in Aarey has been declared as forest area, making it the first extensive forest blossoming within city limits anywhere in the world, the CM said. “The State government has ensured that the rights of the tribal communities, stable owners and other stakeholders in the area are protected,” he said.

In another move likely to benefit Mumbaikars, Mr. Thackeray announced that Metro 3 and Metro 6 lines will be joined, facilitating direct connectivity of the eastern suburbs with south Mumbai.

The 33.5 km fully underground Metro-3 line, being constructed by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd., runs from Colaba in south Mumbai to Seepz in the western suburbs. The 14.47 km Metro 6 runs from Lokhandwala to Kanjurmarg.

At the peak of protests by environment activists, students and residents over construction of the car shed in Aarey, the proposed site was cleared with the cutting of trees in the dead of the night. The Shiv Sena, which was then an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led ruling alliance in the State under Devendra Fadnavis, was vocal in its opposition to the construction.

Cases had been filed against several green activists, political workers and students who were detained for opposing the government action. While Mr. Fadnavis remained undeterred, the Sena had promised to stop construction of the car shed if it came to power.

One of the first decisions of Mr. Thackeray, on being sworn in as head of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government last year, was to stop work on the car shed. The government also appointed a committee to study feasibility of the project. Last month, the Cabinet initiated proceedings to declare the Aarey site as a forest area.

Unfortunate, says Fadnavis

Mr. Fadnavis termed the decision unfortunate and one taken to satisfy the ruling party’s ego. “This decision will increase the cost of the project by at least ₹4,000 crore. This cost escalation is assessed by the committee appointed by this government,” he said.

“The Kanjurmarg site was earlier considered by the government, but it was under litigation and stayed by the High Court. Some private individuals claimed their rights and the stay was requested to be withdrawn. However, the court wanted the amount to be deposited if the claims got settled in future,” said Mr. Fadnavis.

He said that the amount was around ₹2,400 crore in 2015. “What is the status of that case today? And if someone moves the Supreme Court, who will be responsible for the delay?” he asked.

Moreover, since the site in Kanjurmarg is a marshy land, it will require at least two years to stabilise it, he added, claiming that all the previous tenders will have to be scraped and a new process will have to be followed now.

“This means that the Metro project, which would have been in the service of Mumbaikars just next year, has now been postponed indefinitely,” said the ex-CM.

‘Win for both’

Reacting to the announcement on Sunday afternoon, Environment minister Aaditya Thackeray said, “Aarey Saved”.

Opposition BJP said the Chief Minister’s claims were misleading. “The land in Kanjurmarg in under litigation. The expert committee had recommended existing Aarey land for the project,” said BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar.

Countering this, Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik of the Nationalist Congress Party and an MVA ally, said, “Maharashtra CM has made an announcement as he had promised during polls. It is extremely wrong to question the authenticity of information he has provided.”

The move has been welcomed by environmental activists who thanked the MVA government. “The blackmail of Aarey or Metro has finally ended. It’s a win for both Aarey and Metro today. We thank the government, especially CM and Environment Minister for the decision,” said Stalin D. one of the leading green activists who had been fighting against the car shed and demanding that Aarey land be declared a forest.

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