February 7, 2017 3:26:57 am
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which is building the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro rail line, has claimed that it has no immediate plans for commercial exploitation of portions of the 33 hectare land allotted to it in the Aarey Colony for a car shed. “The land is given to us to construct a car depot and we have no plans currently to commercialise it,” said R Ramana, Executive Director (Planning), MMRC. For allotting the Aarey land for the car shed, the chief minister-led urban development (UD) department had previously deleted 33 hectare of land from Aarey’s no development zone. Activists, who have been opposing the allotment of Aarey land, objected when the government reserved the land parcel for “Metro car depot/ workshop, allied activities, and commercial zone”.
“I cannot say about the future. But for now we do not have any plans for commercial exploitation of the plot,” added R Ramana. Even the notice inviting bids for the construction of the car depot does not mention commercial activities. The notice only mentions the “construction of depot cum workshop buildings, metro station building, subway, earthwork and all associated works at Aarey colony for the Mumbai Metro Line 3 project”.
But activist Zoru Bhathena who filed an RTI in this regard remains sceptical. He claims the MMRC had disclosed plans for real estate development on the land while replying to his RTI. “The government can say something now and then later completely go back on it. If they are not to commercialise then why would the government include the reservation for a commercial zone on the land?” he asked.
While replying to Bhatena’s RTI, the MMRC had on November 22 disclosed modified plans for the car depot’s layout, which included an area marked for residential and commercial development. It also revealed that the MMRC itself had requested the UD department to change the land use besides requesting building rights up to three times the plot size or 3 FSI on the land.
The state government has also made it clear that besides allotment of the 33 hectare land, it would not bear any financial burden for the project and has suggested that the funds be raised through real estate development. The Rs 23,136-crore project was to be jointly funded by the Centre and the state government apart from a loan assistance of Rs 13,235 crore from Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA).
“The GR clearly shows that the government is not going to provide the remaining funds and instead expects MMRC to raise it through real estate development of the land provided by them in Aarey. With a high FSI of 3, they will be able to undertake construction of one crore square feet of land and we can only imagine how much money they will rake in through that. They do not want Aarey just to construct the car-shed but to be the financier of the entire project,” he says.
A panel constituted by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to examine alternatives to Aarey in 2015 had suggested a land in Kanjurmarg. However, the MMRC rejected the proposal last year on the grounds that it was under litigation as well as marshy which would make construction on it more expensive.
“The UD has not even maintained a file on the Kanjurmarg land and it is evident that MMRC only made excuses to not take up that land. MMRC’s ulterior motives of commercialisation would not have been served there. But government cannot chop down forests to make money. They need to find other alternatives for that,” added Bhatena.
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