The Aarey Deadlock

The Aarey Deadlock

Aarey milk colony has been the centre of storm for quite some time, courtesy the Line -3 metro proposal of the Mumbai Metro. Shubham Singh finds out what the controversy is all about.

Also referred as Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line, the Line-3 is a part of the metro system for the city of Mumbai being implemented by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL). While the proposed metro link will greatly help easing road traffic, it will also usurp large portions of Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon – considered the green lung of the city.

Adjacent to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Aarey covers a total area of 3160 acres of land which comprises gardens, lakes, picnic facilities, and milk plants consisting of 32 cattle farms. The area is host to 77 species of birds, 34 species of wildflowers, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 46 species of reptiles and 16 species of mammals including leopards. Several of these species are listed under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act.

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In 2015, the government of Maharashtra, announced plans to construct the metro depot on an 81 acre of land in Aarey. The government’s proposed chopping 2,298 trees for building the metro car shed, out of which 2,044 were to be transplanted.

However, government’s decision met with immense protests from environmentalists and residents of Aarey colony.Environmental activist Rishi Aggarwal, claimed that transplantation can never be an option.“The survival rate of transplanted trees in the city is dismal. Those proposing transplantation neither understand trees or ecology. Looking at it from the perspective of situating the car shed in Aarey, the possibility of disrupting the ecosystem is huge and most probably irreversible.”The residents are also protesting against the construction and cutting of trees. Realty Plus spoke to one of the resident of the Aarey colony who said that they are very unhappy with the proposal of Line -3 metro and will do whatever it takes to stand against the construction of shed in Aarey.

Rishi Aggarwal

The environmentalists have already challenged this construction in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). They also claimed that builders in that area are using the metro car shed and metro line -3proposals to sell their ready to move in apartments with the help of the state government.

Realty Plus contacted Managing Director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL), Ashwini Bhide to know their side of the story. However, she refused to comment on the pretext that the matter was stillsub-judice and the court will decide the fate of the project.

The latest reports reveal that the Aareyarea which is chosen for the construction of depot comes under the jurisdiction of Sanjay Gandhi National Park which in a way suggests that it is impossible to cut trees and give a green signal to the project.Also, according to the media reports Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA)now wants a four acre plot next to Western Express Highway in Goregaon to set up an integrated operation and control centre.

According to Aggarwal, the location of the yard for Line-3 metro yard has already become a contentious issuejeopardizing the preservation of Aarey bio-diversity. He has suggested two alternative locations for the construction.

  • Within the Kalina Campus of the University of Mumbai which has a total area of about 120hectare and most of which is unutilised. However, the University management has their own master plan to develop the land but are short of funds. MMRDA can possibly invest in the development plans of the university in lieu of land for the Metro car shed and even provide a station there for its students.
  • Reclaiming land at the Colaba end of the Line -3.

While, this tug of war is still going on, MMRDA has come up with another demand of constructing the camps to house labourers working on the Dahisar-Andheri (E) Metro line (Metro 7)over 15 acres of Aarey land. Already, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has excluded more than 400 acres of Aarey land from the Eco-Sensitive Zone to allow the construction of the Metro -3 car shed.

Overall, the authorities approach does not seem to bode well for the city of Mumbai. The matter has already reached the court and Mumbaikars are keenly watching to know who wins the battle over the Aareyland. Preserving environment is very essential for a city like Mumbai which is constantly losing its greenery due to surge in urban population andin the name of development. Strategic thinking and well planned approach can only save the ecosystem of Mumbai.

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