Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s ambitious target of a 100-kilometre Metro rail network crisscrossing Mumbai has hit a stumbling block, with 31 residents’ and activists’ organisations coming together to protest against plans for elevated Metro lines.
The groups, which have formed an umbrella organisation titled Apna Mumbai Abhiyan, on Thursday demanded that all Metro lines within the city be constructed underground, like the proposed Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro. They activists said elevated Metro lines in congested areas, especially the suburbs, will permanently damage the quality of life and environment, and will cause physical and visual clutter.
Nitin Killawala, an architect and activist, said, “There was absolutely no study done before deciding on an elevated route and not an underground one. There wasn’t any public consultation or interaction either. It is a myth that elevated Metro lines are cheaper. There are so many hurdles in constructing elevated corridors in Mumbai, as seen in the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro, that it ultimately leads to cost escalation.”
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Except for the 33.5-km Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro, the BJP-led state government has decided to construct all other corridors in the city as elevated Metro lines. Two of these, the 16.5-km Dahisar East-Andheri East Metro and 18.5-km Dahisar-DN Nagar Metro, are already at an advance stage with contracts having been formalised for the former, and in process for the latter.
Besides the two Metro lines, the Fadnavis-led Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has approved plans for an elevated 23.6-km DN Nagar-Mankhurd Metro, while detailed project reports are in the works for an elevated Thane-Wadala-Kasarvadavali Metro.
For the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line, the state stuck to the original plan of constructing it underground as the project was already under tendering when the BJP government took over. However, it decided to overturn the previous government’s decision of constructing the Metro routes from Dahisar to Mankhurd via Bandra as underground corridors, a decision that the Congress-NCP government had taken after opposition to plans for an elevated route.
Activist Hansel D’Souza said the government should consider elevated Metro lines only in areas outside Mumbai, in the larger Mumbai Metropolitan Region, which are not very congested and hence have space to build. He said by deciding to construct the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro underground and other lines elevated, the government is applying an unequal yardstick for people living in the suburbs. “We are being discriminated against as second-level citizens,” he said.
Quoting a report from the Indian Institute of Technology, activists from Apna Mumbai Abhiyan also said that the maintenance cost of elevated corridors will be higher than underground lines. As per the report, they said, maintenance of an underground Metro will cost Rs 4 crore by 2021 and Rs 5.6 crore by 2031, as against Rs 5.9 crore and Rs 9.60 crore by 2021 and 2031, respectively, for an elevated line.