The battle for Aarey Milk Colony intensified Monday after activists were up in arms over an advertisement issued by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC). On Monday, the MMRC released an advertisement informing the citizens about the Metro 3 car depot at Aarey Milk Colony. Activists have alleged that the metro implementing body has published “lies” through the advertisement and have refuted them with other government documents.
“They have published false statements in the ad. A public body cannot release an ad like this and lie about it. If what they are doing is right, then why do they have to issue a public appeal,” said Zoru Bhathena, an activist. Meanwhile, Stalin Dayanand from the NGO Vanashakti has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with documents that contend the “facts” put out by the MMRC and again appealed to him to prevent the destruction of Aarey.
”Public money has been used to give an advertisement which is factually incorrect and conceals the truth. We citizens and NGOs do not have the luxury of spending and access to massive quantum of public money. Hence, we are writing to you in the hope that you will honour your words and stand up for protection of trees, forests, green spaces,” he wrote.
In the ad, MMRC claimed ‘Aarey Car Depot site has been selected on technical ground after examining all alternatives’. However, the activists disputed the statement with a Government Resolution dated October 16, 2015 in which alternatives were mentioned. The GR stated: “In the overall scenario when GOM is considering construction of Kanjur Marg-Jogeshwari corridor and constructing a depot with lesser impact on trees costs an additional amount of Rs 750 cr, the Committee considers that larger benefits will be achieved by adopting the following: a) construct the main depot of line 3 at Kanjur Marg by integrating Colaba-SEEPZ corridor (MML-3) with Jogeshwari-Kanjur Marg corridor.”
While the ad claims that there are no restraining orders by the NGT against a car depot in Aarey, in an application before the Bombay High Court on August 31, 2015, the Collector (Mumbai suburban district) contended, “The applicant states there is no other suitable land available for the said component of the project. The applicant states that the land at Aarey Milk Colony was initially sought to be utilised for the said purposes. However, the same has been ruled out as the said land falls in an Eco Sensitive zone. The applicant states that the National Green Tribunal, Western Zone Bench by an order dated 19th August, 2015, passed in Application No. 34/2015 (WZ) has directed the authorities to maintain status quo till further orders.”
MMRC claimed that no real estate development is proposed in the car depot. However, a GR dated March 16, 2016, reveals the adjoining three hectares land will be used for the purpose. The GR states that the 3 hectares land should be transferred to MMRDA for metro car depot workshop use and commercial use, in context of raising funds through property development. MMRC refused to comment on the objections.