Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray may have asked officials to study the feasibility of building the Mumbai Metro III car shed at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), but an expert panel appointed by Thackeray himself had already ruled out the option in the past citing multiple litigations.
After the Bombay High Court’s stay on the construction of the underground Metro line’s car shed at Kanjurmarg, Thackeray had asked senior bureaucrats to explore the possibility of relocating the project elsewhere.
A 67-acre land parcel in BKC, a portion of which is already earmarked for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, is one of the options being considered for the relocation, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has said.
But documents (accessed by The Indian Express) show that the expert panel, headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik, had ruled that the option wasn’t technically viable.
Thackeray had appointed the committee almost immediately after granting a stay to the contentious car shed project at Aarey last November.
The committee, which also had a representative from the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) that is building the underground Metro, was asked to explore whether alternative locations were available for shifting of the car shed.
While it submitted its findings in January, 2020 itself, the report is yet to be made public.
In October, after Thackeray scrapped the Aarey car shed project, his predecessor, Devendra Fadnavis, had leaked out portions of the report, embarrassing the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
According to the report, the panel had ruled out the BKC option at the preliminary stage of consideration itself, citing technical hurdles. On the basis of the status of the ongoing tunneling work for the underground line, it had found that the tunnels for this portion of the route had already been constructed, arguing that the modifications would have to be made to the already constructed tunnels if a depot were to be stationed at the BKC land.
“Any change in the constructed tunnels for joining it to the depot would require dismantling of both up and down tunnels at multiple locations,” the panel had said. The MMRCL has already completed 85 per cent of the tunnelling work for the 33.5 km-long Metro route that will connect Colaba to Bandra to Seepz.
Citing that the cost of land at BKC was very high, the committee had ruled out the option due to the “dual challenge of technical feasibility and serious time and cost overruns”.
It had also ruled out the option of bifurcating the depot requirements between two independent plots – one at BKC and another at the Mumbai University land in Kalina, which is another option now being explored.
On Friday, Fadnavis took a sharp dig at Thackeray over the BKC option, calling it a “childish” and “laughable” move. “I don’t know who is advising this government because whoever it is, is intent on ruining Mumbai and this government.” Fadnavis had also cited technical hurdles and cost overruns to question the option.
Countering Fadnavis, Raut said, “This government does not depend on advisors.”
Meanwhile, documents show that the Thackeray-appointed panel had studied 10 sites in all as possible alternatives to Aarey. Of these, it had ruled out sites at BKC, Backbay Reclamation, a land owned by the Mumbai Port Trust, Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Mumbai University land at Kalina and two other locations at Seepz and Dahisar at the preliminary stage itself citing technical unviability.
While the now disputed Kanjurmarg land, a 500-acre land sprawl at Pahadi village in Goregaon and a land allotted to the State Reserve Police Force near Aarey were evaluated in greater detail, the committee had then recommended against relocating the car shed from Aarey, citing cost overruns and commissioning delays in each case.
In October, Thackeray had announced the shifting of the car shed to the Kanjurmarg site. On Wednesday, the HC had stayed construction work at the site admitting petitions filed by the Centre’s salt department and private parties against the Mumbai (Suburban) collector’s land allotment order.
Incidentally, the panel, in its report, had pointed to multiple litigations and ownership claims over the Kanjurmarg land.
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