In an affidavit to the Bombay High Court, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), on March 20, 2018, said that the proposal to construct a car shed in Aarey Milk Colony, had been approved by the government only after ensuring that no environmental laws were flouted. The MMRC also claimed that the 25-hectare plot in Aarey Milk Colony, allocated for building the metro car shed, had never been recognised by the state as a protected or an eco-sensitive zone.
“In January 2016, the government issued a draft notification, proposing that the Aarey Milk Colony area will be included within the eco-sensitive zone of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park area,” the MMRC said in its affidavit. “However, the expert committee then constituted to look into the same, had decided that of the total area, about 165 hectares of land that included the site of the proposed metro car shed, did not fall in the category of the eco-sensitive zone. Therefore, this 165-hectare area was not notified as eco-sensitive or no-development zone, in the government’s final notification for the draft development plan,” it said.
The MMRC’s affidavit was in response to a petition filed by some activists and residents of the Aarey Milk Colony. They had alleged that the Maharashtra government illegally modified the draft Development Plan (DP) 2034 for Mumbai, to show what was previously a green zone in the area, as that reserved for the construction of a car shed for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro project.
The petitioners said while the government had issued a circular earmarking the land for the car shed, until earlier this year, the draft DP 2034 continued to show the said plot as a green area and a no-development zone. The state, however, had recently issued a notification to amend the draft development plan, to change the use of the plot of land as that reserved for the metro car shed, they said.
The MMRC, however, denied the allegations. “No norms have been flouted. The 25-hectare plot in question, is located at the southernmost end of Aarey Milk Colony. It is not located in any core green area, nor does it host a thick green cover. Instead, it is surrounded by busy arterial roads with heavy vehicular traffic on three sides,” the MMRC said. “The allegations thus, that allowing the car shed in Aarey is the first step on the part of the government, to allow for commercial exploitation of the area, are unfounded and unwarranted,” it further said.
The MMRC also told the high court that the metro is a public interest project and it aims to serve the needs of residents. The high court is likely to hear the matter at length from April 9, 2018, onwards and pass a final order on the fate of the proposed car shed. The construction work of the 33.5-km-long underground Colaba–Bandra-Seepz Metro-3 corridor is currently underway at multiple places in Mumbai.