Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday set up a nine-member panel, headed by Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar, to resolve the Metro car shed impasse. The panel’s scope of work includes examining whether the Kanjurmarg land is more suitable than Aarey for the project, considering the operational benefits and public interest. The state has asked it to examine if more green cover at Aarey will be endangered if the car shed were to be relocated there.
K V Krishna Rao, Professor of Centre for Urban Science and Engineering at IIT-Bombay, will also be a part of the panel that has been asked to submit its report within a month. With the Bombay High Court scheduled to hear the matter in February, sources said that Thackeray has asked the panel to submit its report in time for the court hearing.
Besides Kumar, the panel will have six other serving IAS officers – Manisha Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary (Environment); BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal; Konkan Divisional Commissioner Annasaheb Misal; Transport Commissioner Avinash Dhakne; Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited’s Managing Director Ranjit Singh and Additional Metropolitan Commissioner Sonia Sethi. Pramod Ahuja, MMRDA Director (Works), has also been named in the panel.
This will be the third panel appointed for the project. In 2015, then Devendra Fadnavis government had appointed a panel under then MMRDA chief U P S Madan. In 2019, another committee – headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik – was appointed by Thackeray to study possible alternatives to the car shed coming up at Aarey.
Last October, Thackeray had announced the scrapping of the Aarey car shed project for the Mumbai Metro 3 corridor. He had instead declared a plan to build an integrated car shed for four lines on the 102-acre Kanjurmarg plot. But the allotment of the land by the suburban collector to the MMRDA for building the car shed has run into a legal hitch, with the Centre and private parties staking claim on the salt pan land.
On December 16, last year, the Bombay High Court, while admitting pleas against the collector’s allotment, had ordered a stay on the construction of the car shed at Kanjurmarg till the next hearing in February. The Centre, which holds 50 per cent equity in Metro Line 3, too, has objected to project coming up at Kanjurmarg in the absence of a detail techno-feasibility study, which the panel has now been asked to carry out.
It has been asked to find out whether integration of multiple lines at Kanjurmarg was feasible and report on the time and cost this should take. The MMRDA has argued that building an integrated car shed will lead to a big saving in land costs. The agency says the shifting of the project to Aarey will be counter productive, as more land will be needed at that site. “At least five more hectares will be needed. This will involve more chopping of trees,” said a source.
During the previous Devendra Fadnavis-led regime, the state had repeatedly argued before various courts that the Kanjurmarg land was not a viable option while justifying its move to build the car shed at Aarey.
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