For the construction of the BKC station for the underground Metro 3, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has levelled some areas of the Mithi river. For this, they have dumped soil into a part of the river and flattened it. Environmentalists have, however, raised red flags stating that the restoration of the riverbed may be difficult.
“The levelling serves a dual purpose. Since it is a low-lying area, we needed a space for the heavy machinery to operate from to conduct the piling activity for the station construction. It also increases the ground level above the water level to ensure that the river water does not enter the construction site,” said S K Gupta, director (projects), MMRC.
While the levelled area is a temporary arrangement for the duration of the construction, environmentalists have raised concerns over the activity. “From the time the river exits the National Park, it is being tampered with by different government agencies and this has already destroyed the river. Affecting the flow of the river will only cause more damage. Recently, 300 mm rainfall brought the city to a standstill. The more we block the water flow, the more impact it will cause. They may say that they will restore the area, but practically it is unlikely. They could use better technology to avoid such a situation,” said Debi Goenka, a city environmentalist.
Stalin Dayanand, director, Vanashakti, who had approached the Supreme Court over the “deplorable condition” of Mithi river said, “This is preposterous. In the garb of providing a Metro to the city, they are bulldozing all the eco-sensitive areas in the city. We will mention this in the Supreme court during our hearing on November 6.”
However, SK Gupta said, “We have received all the necessary permissions. Considering the size of the water body, the space we have occupied is very little.”
A 1.2-km underwater tunnel between BKC and Dharavi Metro stations on the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line, will be the second such tunnel in the country. The only other such tunnel running under water is under construction in Kolkata.
As the area falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone I (CRZ I), the MMRC had approached the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) for permissions to work in the area. In a meeting held in November 2016, the MMRC had told MCZMA that the entire construction of the underground stations at BKC and Dharavi will be 20 metre below the CRZ I area. They had also assured them that minimum damage will be caused to the mangroves. While they later received permission from the High Court to cut 108 mangroves, it is unclear whether they received permission to level the land at the riverbank. “We will have to examine if permission was granted to them for the purpose. Mithi is a sensitive area and any attempt to narrow its flow would be illegal,” said a senior official from MCZMA.