Mumbai: Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has dumped two committee reports and decided to shift Metro 3 carshed to Kanjurmarg on the government land from Aarey Colony. The proposed car depot of Metro 3 and Metro 6 will be common on the land which was handed over to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority last week for a sum of Re zero (free of cost) and soil testing has begun there. This is against the claims earlier made by BJP and critics that it will cost more than Rs 10,000 crore, instead, it has happened free of cost.
Thackeray has bypassed recommendations made by a six member committee appointed by the Fadnavis-led government and another by a committee chaired by the committee headed by additional chief secretary (finance) Manoj Saunik. Both these committees had observed that the shifting of Metro 3 car shed from Aarey Colony will not be viable as it will lead to cost escalation, time overrun and face major logistic issues. However, Thackeray, by junking these reports, has remained firm on his commitment to Mumbaikars that the city's makeover will not be done at the cost of the environment.
Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray said, ‘’Metro 3 and Metro 6 would have the same technical specifications, most importantly would increase connectivity for eastern suburbs to the mid and south of Mumbai. Headway time of the metro would be maintained as originally planned. Kanjurmarg land belonged to the state government.’’
The six-member committee had observed that the Metro 3 project would fail if the car shed was relocated from Aarey Colony. It was supported by the former additional chief secretary in the CM’s Office Praveen Pardeshi and former MD of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ashwini Bhide. The committee had suggested the construction of a double-decked car depot at Aarey Colony itself while cutting down on half the space if the Kanjurmarg option was rejected. The "double-decked" car shed would see the area being utilised shrinking from 30 hectares to 20.82 hectares, but the cost of building the shed will rise by Rs 750 crore.
On the other hand, Saunik-led committee found merit in the argument that increased construction activity inside the Aarey Colony and further stated that the Metro 3 car shed development was impacting the flora and fauna in the region. It had reiterated that the relocation will not be possible but had 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 environment conservationist Zoru Bathena said the government will benefit from lifelong cost savings from merging depots and Mumbaikars will forever benefit from the reactivation of the Aarey forest. ‘’It is a win-win for everyone. The only question that remains unanswered is why the previous government refused to act for the overall benefit of Mumbai when all these benefits were known way back in 2015 itself,’’ he noted.
However, former chief minister Devendra Fdnavis said it was an unfortunate decision to shift Metro 3 car shed and that too just to satisfy ego. ‘’This decision will increase the project cost by at least Rs 4,000 crore and this cost escalation is assessed by the committee appointed by the government,’’ he added.