Metro car depot will have to be at Aarey: Bhide

Burning issue: Activist Stalin Dayanand speaks while Ashwini Bhide, MMRC MD, (left) looks on during a debate at SNDT Women’s University on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

In a heated debate, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) managing director Ashwini Bhide said the car depot for the Metro Line 3 had to come up in Aarey colony, and a delay in acquiring land would delay the project.

The debate was organised by Usha Mittal Institute of Technology at SNDT Women’s University, with Ms. Bhide and Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi presenting the government’s point of view on the decision to build the Metro depot at Aarey. Environmental activists Zoru Bhathena and Stalin Dayanand highlighted the impact that the decision would have on the forest.

Ms. Bhide drew attention to the urgency behind acquiring the land, stating that the first set of trains will arrive in 10 months, and building the depot would take at least two years. She said, “Nearly 48% of the work is complete. If we don’t have the depot today we can’t operate Metro 3 and have to stop the work right here.”

Ms. Bhide said after gaining possession of the land, it would take MMRC at least two years to develop it. Both Mr. Pardeshi and Ms. Bhide at various points of the debate said a narrative had been created on social media that was not fact-based.

A key issue discussed was the alternatives to the selected site at Aarey. Both Mr. Bhathena and Mr. Dayanand in their presentations said there were alternatives to the land, notably at Kanjurmarg. Mr. Pardeshi and Ms. Bhide countered that, saying that the land in question is privately owned and mired in litigation.

“Today, shifting the Metro car depot from Aarey to Kanjurmarg is not possible. And if [there is no depot], the Metro will not run,” Ms. Bhide said. Earlier, she had said the government had explored the Kanjurmarg option.

Mr. Bhathena said there was a dispute on the Kanjurmarg plot, which is spread over a few hundred acres. However, he said, the dispute related to one corner of the plot, while the depot could be constructed on the other. “It is just a part of the same plot number. The issue is only desire. If they wish to move it, they can,” he said.

Mr. Dayanand said the Metro car shed was setting a precedent to a host of other projects that were being planned at Aarey Milk Colony. “There is a zoo, the wildlife safari, the Metro office, RTO testing track; now every new project is coming up inside Aarey,” he said.

Mr. Dayanand also alleged that the station at Aarey was being built for a slum rehabilitation project planned in the colony. He said, “You are going to bring slum dwellers from across the city and put them in this place. They will not move into Aarey unless there is transport available to them and thus, the Metro station is made there. Nearly 1.5 lakh people are going to come into that region. What will remain of Aarey?”

Mr. Pardeshi said the city was starved of space, and only 29.99% of the total 457.47 sq. km could be developed. He also said Aarey was State government land allotted for building and keeping cowsheds, and that it had not been “identified as a forest” by the government.

“In the petition in the High Court, Justice Dharmadhikari heard all the points made by the petitioners and finally said it is not a forest,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 4:08:19 AM |

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