In continuation of finding means to mitigate the effects or shift the Line 3 Metro car shed being planned in Aarey Milk Colony some of us in Save Aarey and senior members of BJP had a good meeting at MMRDA on 9th December with the officials in-charge of the Metro project.
Besides the usual discussion about lessening the number of trees to be cut by doing changes in alignment or shifting the plot to some nearby options the more interesting new information was that other land parcels were considered for situating the car shed had been considered in the early stages of the project but when they could not be obtained then Aarey was finalised. By the end of the meeting there was enthusiasm and hope that possibly one of the other options could still be revived.
The two options were
1) Within the Kalina Campus of the University of Mumbai, which has a total area of about 120ha and most of which is unutilised. The University management completely refused to entertain any possibility since they have a Masterplan for utilising the land but were held back for want of funds. MMRDA can possibly invest considerably in the development of UoM in lieu of land for the Metro car shed and even provide a station there for its students.
2) Reclaiming land at the Colaba end of the Line 3.
From what I saw on Google Earth the Kalina land seems a bit difficult and so I will below comment on the Colaba option.
Between the plot considered at Aarey and the Colaba coast the ecological value of the Aarey plot is far higher than the sea to be reclaimed at Aarey. Aarey’s air pollution mitigation, flood mitigation and general scenic relief to thousands of people is huge compared to the sea at Colaba. I say this as someone who was played one of the strongest roles in conservation along the coast. I have also been most vocal in the past decade on the enormous flaws in the way the CRZ notification is framed and implemented. As is quite symptomatic with us we tend to miss the big picture completely with most of our policies and legislation. Where violations to CRZ are in a nature of private profit nothing stops from it being violated as can be seen in many instances (can be discussed separately).
While CRZ and opposition of environmentalists to reclamation will be cited as a reason for not considering Colaba for a car shed, we see that CRZ seems to be no hurdle for the coast road project, which in terms of damage to the environment is far more significant and is facing enormous opposition not just on environmental grounds but more fundamentally as not being a sound solution to solve traffic congestion in Mumbai. And at a massive cost of Rs. 8000 crores at that and agreed upon in a most undemocratic manner.
So in short it makes perfect sense to reclaim some land at Colaba for the car shed. The images below need to be referred.
The Yellow Plot is 10 acres (4ha)
This plot already exists and can be used for the ramps to emerge from underground.
The Green Plot is 54 acres (21ha)
This plot is currently covered with bustling slums, the Backbay Bus depot and mangroves on the edges. The slums are in a pretty bad condition and could do with a proper scheme to provide better housing on the same locations. Some images from the slums there at the end of the post.
The Maroon Plot is 84 acres (34 acres)
This plot is the best option for the car shed because in the green option there will be issues with rehabilitating the slums. On the sea ward edge is the remnant of the last attempt at reclamation. Most of the land in this area including the World Trade Center, Cuffe Parade and Navy Nagar are all built on reclaimed land. The sea in the maroon plot is not harbouring some greater ecological value compared to the Aarey plot. The area is already protected by the sea wall on one side. If global warming or sea level rise or tsunami will be a threat it will be to the whole city and not the metro alone.
Now keeping the above in mind we quickly need to have widespread discussions in the city to discuss between Aarey and Colaba Reclamation (with some room for Kalina as well) and close the matter.
State of the slums in the Green Plot show above