Mumbai: The state government has handed over yet another chunk of open land in the city for the construction of the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro III underground line. This time it is 11,000 sq m or almost three acres of the landmark Mahalaxmi race course land. The 226-acre race course is one of the few sprawling open spaces left in the island city and the move may anger local resident associations and environmentalists.
However, government sources said most of this land will be handed back when construction is completed and Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which is executing the project, will retain only 2,400 sq m or little over half an acre for a traction substation.
MMRC requires public land on temporary and permanent basis all along the metro’s alignment for traction substations, passenger stations and areas to launch tunnel boring machines to bu ild a 32.5-km underground tunnel across the length of the city.
A senior MMRC official said the move will not impact the horse races or the jogging track.”The portion of the land is under no use at present.” The Royal Western India Turf Club manages the race course but its lease for the land has lapsed and it is now under negotiation with the government. The club claimed that it was not aware of the development. Its media adviser Vivek Jain said, “We are not aware about the location of the land that has been allotted as nobody has informed us. Ideally, the government should have told us as the lease is under negotiations.”
The MMRC official said, “The lease has expired and RWITC is no longer in possession of the land. There is no need for them to be informed as the government owns the land.”
Jain asserted that there is very little vacant land around the course and it can impact racing operations or leisure activities. However, the MMRC official maintained that the land, which is allotted close to E Moses and Tulsi Pipe road junction, is not in use for any other activity.
MMRC has asked for a total of 43.02 hectares on permanent basis and 62 hectares on temporary basis respectively for constructing the Metro III line.This land is spread over a total of 88 plots belonging to various state agencies, including 45 of BMC. Of these 36 land parcels are directly under state government, and MMRC is in possession of 32 of them. This includes 30 hectares in Aarey colony in Goregaon.
Of land under BMC, around 7,796 sq m (0.78 hectares) is being conceded permanently; this includes portions of gardens and grounds such as Colaba Woods and Azad and Oval maidans.
Activist Ashok Datar said, “Generally, there is a tendency to take more on space then required. Hope the Metro authorities do not take more land as open space is scarce. However, it is also a fact that Metro type projects are needed to reduce reliance on cars.”