Maharashtra asks Bombay High Court to lift 18-year-old Stay on Kanjurmarg Land for Metro-III

If Kanjurmarg Land unavailable, Metro Rail car depot likely at Aarey

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has moved the Bombay high court seeking that a nearly two-decade-old stay on 135.7 acres of land in Kanjurmarg be lifted for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro-III project. Assistant government pleader G W Mattos mentioned the application for urgent hearing before a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Anil Menon on Monday. The bench has scheduled the case for hearing on Wednesday.

The High Court, in 1997, had restrained the state government from allotting the around 400-acre land in Kanjurmarg to any person following a legal dispute over it that dates back to 1953.

In an application filed by Mumbai suburban district collector Shekar Tanne, the state government has urged the HC to lift the status quo order on the land that is required to set up the Metro car shed and pre-cast yard for the Metro-III project. Pointing to the fact that Metro-III was a “public project of urgency”, the state said that even if the outcome of the litigation goes in favour of the persons claiming the land, they can be compensated at that stage. The state claimed that if the stay was not lifted, the entire Metro-III project would be stalled and would not just affect the city, but also the country, as it is an crucial mass transit link connecting the island city to transportation hubs as well as the domestic and international airports.

The Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro-III project is proposed to be operational by 2021 at a cost of Rs 23,136 crore. The project is part funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The project proposes to have eight cars with a capacity of 2,500 passengers on the route, carrying around 14 lakh passengers every day, and help reduce 3.73 lakh vehicles daily on the route.

The Colaba-Bandra-Seepz project will be underground with the line to the car shed being over ground. The government had initially planned to construct the car shed at Aarey Colony but met with stiff opposition from environmentalists and local residents as the area falls in an eco-sensitive zone.

A government-appointed committee then searched for an alternative and narrowed down to the Kanjurmarg land for the car shed and for allied activities such as the pre-casting yard. However, the Kanjurmarg land was under a legal dispute since 1953. The claimants had launched a second round of litigation in 1996, and the following year the HC granted the status quo order.

Committee studied nine sites across the city and found three to be most feasible

An expert committee has recommended building the metro car depot for the proposed Metro 3 project at Kanjurmarg, but there are still chances that it may come up at Aarey Colony.

Metro Car Depot issue at MumbaiIn its recommendations, the chief minister-appointed committee said that a double-deck depot at Aarey Colony may be a viable option in case the state government is unable to acquire the Kanjurmarg land, which is under litigation.

After studying nine sites across the city, the committee, headed by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) commissioner UPS Madan, found three sites feasible — Kanjurmarg, Backbay Reclamation, Aarey Colony — to build the Metro 3 (Colaba-BandraSeepz) car depot.

“The committee recommends that in case the land at Kanjurmarg is not made available for some reason, then the modified layout of a full service double-deck depot at Aarey Colony near the present site may be considered,” said one of the recommendations.

The double-deck car depot can be constructed on 20.82 hectares of the 30 hectares land earmarked for the project. It will also result in 446 trees being axed instead of the initial 2,298.

The double-deck facility, however, will increase the project cost by Rs750 crore, but it can be constructed without any uncertainty, the report said.

The panel stated that the land in Kanjurmarg was the most feasible alternative, and suggested that metro depot on the land be used for both Metro 3 and the JVLR Kanjurmarg metro lines.

The committee cautioned the state government that the Metro 3 project may get delayed if the decision to hand over the land in Kanjurmarg to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), the nodal agency for the project, is not taken in three months.

On suggestions from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, the committee also recommended use of both Aarey Colony and Kanjurmarg lands for operational efficiency.

“Another option will be to provide the main depot with stabling line and workshop at Kanjurmarg and with limited stabling facilities at Aarey Colony. By this option, intervention in Aarey can be minimised without compromising the operational requirements of the system. By adopting this option, substantial increase in cost can also be avoided,” the report said.

Backbay Reclamation will have more environmental implications because of reclamation in sea, loss of 3.2 hectares of mangrove cover and significant rehabilitation of project-affected people, the report said.