To prevent widespread opposition, backed by politicians of the ruling parties, to the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro from snowballing and thus delaying the project, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) is scrambling to thwart the resistance much before the construction begins.
The corporation has been conducting multiple public hearings with residents who would be affected by the project, meeting with activists concerned about the city’s greenery and open spaces, and mollifying politicians, ahead of the finalisation of construction contracts.
With Shiv Sena openly at the forefront of the protests, especially for the proposed displacement of Marathi-speaking families from south Mumbai’s Girgaum and Kalbadevi areas, senior MMRC officials have also personally met Uddhav Thackeray to explain the project.
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Ashwini Bhide, managing director, MMRC, said, “We are taking cues from our earlier experiences. We have started early in talking to those who would be impacted and quelling their fears, so we don’t expect these protests to pose a hurdle for the project.”
Bhide said that the visit to Thackeray had a different agenda and was not specifically for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro project. “However, we did speak about the Metro line and explained the project to the party chief in detail. He was quite positive about it, saying that as long as the displaced are given alternate houses at the same site, he has no problems with the project.”
Politicians from Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as well as BJP have been opposing certain aspects of the project. While all parties have expressed strong reservations about having the Metro car depot on a 30-hectare plot at Aarey colony, Shiv Sena and members from the BJP are protesting the displacement of residents from Girgaum and Kalbadevi. Members of both parties are part of the chief minister-led panel of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority that had cleared the project.
To ensure positive publicity in the media, MMRC has also been prominently publishing notices, clarifying that it is not thousands of buildings that will have to be demolished for the project, but just 28 buildings and 1,750 huts. Further, the notice specifies that all residents of buildings on private lands will be rehabilitated in the same area.
“Some fear that the use of tunnel boring machines will weaken buildings in the vicinity. We are clearing these rumours too,” Bhide said.
Delay in negotiating with, and rehabilitating project-affected families and land acquisition was one of the major reasons why the 11.4-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro, an elevated corridor built at Rs 4,321 crore, was delayed and took six-and-a-half years to be constructed and opened to the public.
The Rs 23,136 crore Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro, though underground, is nearly three times in length. The MMRC has set a target of completing the project by 2020 to immediately support a ridership of 14 lakh people daily. MMRC expects to receive the financial bids for the project in April, after which it would pick contractors. Actual work is likely to begin only at the end of this year or early next year.
Flats twice as big for most project affected: CM
CM Devendra Fadnavis on Monday announced that residents currently living in houses less than 300 sq ft and who will be affected by the work on the proposed Metro Line III, will be rehabilitated in flats twice the size of their existing flat area.
Fadnavis told the Legislative Assembly on Monday that 80 per cent of those affected by the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro line fall under this category. As for the rest whose homes are larger than 300 sq, each family will be eligible for at least 30 per cent larger area post-rehabilitation. The actual eligibility will be decided by project executing agencies such as MMRDA and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation.
Fadnavis said that a total of 777 families living in 28 buildings in Kalbadevi, Girgaum and Mahim will be affected by the alignment. ENS