Members of CM-appointed panel too opposed Metro depot at Aarey Colony

Mumbai : It’s not just the environmental groups and citizens who are up in arms about the state government’s plan to construct the Metro car-shed at Aarey Colony, but two members on the expert committee appointed by the chief minister too had expressed their opposition to the idea.

The expert committee was constituted to find alternative sites for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro corridor’s car-shed amid stringent opposition to its location at Aarey Colony — the last remaining green cover in the city.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in October gave his assent to a report where two ‘technical members’ on the committee had filed a dissent note stating that there should not be any development in Aarey Colony to maintain its biodiversity. The dissenting views were expressed by Dr Rakesh Kumar, scientist at National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and Shyam Asolekar, faculty, IIT-Bombay.

Confirming that there was opposition to the proposed car shed at Aarey Colony that would affect 2,298 trees, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s chief UPS Madan said: “Yes, two members, one from NEERI and other from IIT-Bombay—the technical member — had opposed any construction in Aarey. They have given their dissenting views which were submitted as part of the report. The majority view of the committee was that in case the land at Kanjurmarg isn’t available then some restricted area with minimum requirement of tree cutting can be used as double-deck car shed and the government has accepted the majority view.” Madan, too, was a member of the committee.

Despite protests, state government has decided to construct the depot at Aarey Colony if they fail to get access to a piece of land in Kanjurmarg which is in litigation. Apart from the depot, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation — the implementing agency of the Metro-III corridor — has filed a latest affidavit seeking permission from National Green Tribunal to construct the car-shed. The affidavit states Aarey Colony is neither a ‘vast grassland nor a dense forest’.

A senior bureaucrat privy to the details of the committee said: “Nobody is saying that there is no forest at Aarey; there are spots where there is forest, wildlife and places where there is nothing; so it’s a mixed area. The land MMRDA or MMRC has sought has the minimal of these things. Both development and environment have to coexist.”

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