The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by a group against the construction of a car depot in Aarey Colony for the Metro 3 project.
The petition was filed by Amrita Bhattacharjee and Biju Augustine, part of the informal “Save Aarey” initiative, to challenge the notification of August 24, 2017, issued by the state government, modifying the sanctioned revised development plan for Aarey by removing 33 hectare from the no-development zone and reserving it for a metro car depot/workshop, or allied use. Along with the notification, the petitioners also challenged a notification of November 9, 2017, in which the state sanctioned the Development Plan (DP) – 2034 for the Aarey Depot.
The petitioners were also seeking directions to allot land in Kanjurmarg to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to enable it to construct a car shed while preventing damage to trees in Aarey Milk Colony.
A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice Prakash D Naik, dismissing the petition, directed the MMRCL to strictly abide by the conditions imposed in the notifications and said no activity contravening and violating those shall be permitted at the site.
The conditions are that the area marked as open space on the Part Plan of the proposed modification will be left open and it shall be binding to conserve the trees in that area, permanently. Other conditions include taking up measures to mitigate the environmental impact on Aarey Colony, re-planting trees taller that 10 feet of a native variety, ensuring that the plantation is undertaken by a professional agency and that the MMRC maintains those trees for five years.
The court said it can “refuse development permission in the event any violations or breaches are noticed” or can refuse permission or approval for using the construction as a metro car depot if convinced that there are breaches or violations.
The bench observed: “Planned development itself means that development is permitted and promoted, but that has to sustain the environment and ecology. It cannot damage or destroy ecology and environment altogether. We have seen the ill effects, when there are no flood control measures, river pollution is not checked and prevented. There are other man-made calamities. If there is undue human intervention and nature is not allowed to take its course, then, we have seen the adverse effects. Cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi in Kerala and Bengaluru in Karnataka and several others have been witnessing floods and at regular intervals.”
The bench said: “It is they (the state) who have determined that the mode of transportation in a city like Mumbai needs to be modernised so, also traffic congestion can be effectively tackled by reforming or modifying public transport, then, merely because another view is possible or that there will be necessarily a destruction of environment and ecology, we cannot strike down such policies.”
Senior Counsel Janak Dwarkadas, for the petitioners, argued that the land in Aarey has dense tree cover in most places and lush green open spaces. It is a naturally forested area, completely uninhabited, he said, that attracts many species of homogeneous and migratory birds and butterflies. The flora and fauna is peculiar and exclusive to the city of Mumbai. The land has remained untouched since the 1950’s, he added.
A technical committee formed to assess the environmental impact while setting up the car shed in Aarey had recommended that the Metro 3 car depot be relocated to Kanjurmarg, with only a small stabilising unit at Aarey. It had said that in case the land is not made available at Kanjurmarg, then to build the depot in Aarey on 20.82 hectare and to put in place measures to mitigate environment damage.