Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had said that giving the Kanjurmarg land for the Metro car depot would not cost a single rupee. The car depot at Kanjurmarg is not a 'no-cost' proposal, but a 'no-Metro' proposal. In fact 76 per cent of the Metro 3 tunnel is complete but there would be no car depot for the next 4-5 years. "The entire economics... will collapse and it will become financially unviable," experts have said. Needless to say, this is the end of the project's financial viability. Of course, those who will suffer the most in this battle of ego are the Mumbaikars. They have to endure the most hardships for that journey.
That is why during our tenure we emphasised on the completion of the Mumbai Metro project. Where only 11 km of Metro was approved till 2014, almost 190 km of Metro work in Mumbai was planned during our tenure. We emphasised on bringing the entire transport of Mumbai on an integrated ticketing system. But, now the example of the Metro car shed is enough to tell us in which direction the journey has started again. Who will be affected by this? The burden of rising prices will eventually be borne by the consumers out of their own pockets and this will add to the problems of Mumbaikars.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray's proposal of a car shed at Kanjurmarg by merging Metro-3 and Metro-6 has already been rejected by an expert committee set up by him. And by changing the location of the car shed, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has betrayed Mumbaikars. Yesterday, through about 19 tweets, I presented the report of the additional chief secretary Manoj Sounik-led committee set up by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. How the location of this new car shed increases the complexity, how much it will raise financial burden, how the environment will be harmed: I tried to discuss all these aspects in detail.
Aarey's land was the only viable option to complete the Metro project on time. It was also a more sustainable option, considering that it was economically viable and would have minimal environmental impact. The Aarey car shed was planned as a green facility with factors like reducing carbon footprints, and including solar panels, wastewater treatment, etc. This has been discussed in great detail by the Mahavikas Aghadi government's committee in its report. Further delays in the project will put a strain on public transport and further damage the environment.
Our government in 2015 considered the Kanjurmarg option but due to delays and multiple litigations it was finally decided to think of a better option. This matter was also reported by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government committee and it discussed in detail the damage caused by moving the car shed from Aarey.
Manoj Sounik's committee has given very detailed information about the number of claims pending in court and their current status. It is clear from the report given by the residential deputy collector in-charge on January 17, 2020, that the proposed site of Kanjurmarg is still in dispute. The report also mentions the full details and status of the claims of which one is in civil court and three in high court.
Going further, if the site for the car shed at Kanjurmarg is fixed, all the problems that come up have been predicted. If the Kanjurmarg land is selected, complications like need for significant changes in Metro Line 6 have to be considered. On-going works need to be suspended immediately, review, redesign and reconstruction need to be done, rectification is required in every step of the way. Moreover, there is a big question mark on the possible operationalisation of the project. What is more unfortunate is the fact that the Metro that Mumbaikars were looking forward to will now take around 4.5 years to finish!
Additionally, looking at the present condition of the Kanjurmarg land, ground improvements and filling works need 2 years, that too after awarding of the contract. Apart from this, due to this relocation, many changes have to be made in the contract/ tender.
A very detailed discussion of the extent and seriousness of the consequences is given in the report. Given the international involvement, there is no doubt that this process will be even more complicated. Shifting of the depot to Kanjurmarg would not fully address the requirements of Line 3 and it would hamper the frequency of operations of both Line 3 and 6.
The mixed rail traffic on various routes from Aarey to Kanjurmarg will create huge complications in the operation of Metro-6. It will also affect Metro-3 and the operational capacity of both these Metros, besides increasing the losses. Due to all this, the state government will have to bear a huge financial burden.
According to the tripartite agreement reached in the matter, the entire financial burden of delays due to changes in the scope of work, duration or any other reason will have to be borne by the state government. In addition, international agencies such as JICA, which is financing the project, will have to go through a number of new processes. The transportation system is the backbone of the economy. So the impact on the economy is also different. Work in new locations has led to environmental damage, biodiversity threats and inconvenience to the public.
The decision of shifting the car shed to Kanjurmarg has created many complexities which have not been addressed by the state government yet. Besides, on October 1, 2020, when the Mumbai district collector transferred the land of Kanjurmarg, the cost of court claims was handed over to MMRDA. Earlier when the decision on the Aarey land was questioned, our government considered all the available options. The issues like these have to be solved with detailed study and not on the basis of ego and emotions. I respect all the environmental activists and want to emphasise that the car shed at Aarey was decided when there was no choice left. But now, how would these activists justify the car shed at a salt-pan land with mangroves and that too in a reserved forest?
The author is a senior BJP leader and former chief minister of Maharashtra. Views expressed are personal.