Mumbai: As Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray begins a new year, one of his priorities would be to sort out land for a car depot for a showpiece metro project in Mumbai.
Getting land for this car depot for the under-construction Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro has become a prestige issue for the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government due to the political tug of war between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A car depot is the nerve centre of any metro corridor, essential to stable the locomotives, wash, clean and repair them.
A closer look at the metro rail lines under construction shows that land for a car depot is a common obstacle for most of the corridors in the space-starved city.
“Getting land for a car depot is an issue across all metro lines, those under construction as well as those still on the plan. Ideally, the construction of a line should not even begin till we have the location of the car depot sorted out,” said a senior state government official who didn’t wish to be identified.
Car depot woes
Currently, there are six metro lines under construction in Mumbai and the initial work on three more is underway. Altogether, these lines will add 180 km to Mumbai’s existing metro network of 11.4 kilometres, at a cost of Rs 92,842 crore.
However, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has a clear right of way only for two car sheds, one at Charkop and the other at Mandale.
These will, at best, cater to four of the metro lines, work on which is under way.
At four other sites chosen to house car depots for these corridors, land issues have either prompted MMRDA to alter plans mid way or continue other works till the land issues are sorted out.
For instance, the MMRDA is planning to build a car depot at Mogharpada in the Thane district over 41 hectares, primarily for the under-construction Wadala-Thane-Kasarvadavali Metro line. The authority also invited bids for the construction of the car depot, the land for which is with the government, but local farmers claim the land was leased to them.
“There are encroachers on government land at Mogharpada who are creating issues. We issued the tender for the construction of the car depot, but protesters are not letting the joint measurement take place,” said an MMRDA official who didn’t wish to be named.
According to the bid documents issued by the MMRDA, the Mogharpada car depot will serve not just the 32.3-km Wadala-Thane-Kasarvadavali Metro, but three additional lines too. These include a 2.7-km Kasarvadavali-Gaimukh line, which will be an extension of the original Wadala-Kasarvadavali line. Initial works such as soil testing and barricading have already begun.
The two other proposed corridors that this car depot will serve are a 9.2-km Gaimukh-Shivaji Chowk line and 12.7-km Wadala-GPO line. Construction of these lines is yet to begin.
The MMRDA had earlier decided to house the Mogharpada car depot at Owala, another location in the Thane district, but had to change plans due to land acquisition as well as environment issues.
The MMRDA is also eyeing land at Govegaon in the Bhiwandi taluka for a 24.9-km Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan Metro, initial works on which have started. However, locals have been opposing land acquisition.
“We are scouting for a few alternative sites to Govegaon as well. There is resistance to land acquisition there. As such, other than the Charkop and the Mandale depots, there are issues with all other car depot sites,” a second MMRDA official said on condition of anonymity.
Line tweaked due to lack of land for depot
This year, the MMRDA is hoping to commission two new Metro lines — an 18.5-km corridor from Dahisar to DN Nagar and another 16.5-km line from Dahisar East-Andheri East.
The authority had earlier earmarked land at Charkop for one car depot and another plot at Dahisar for the second car depot to accommodate the needs of both the lines.
However, land acquisition woes at Dahisar led the MMRDA to alter the plans and join the two metro lines to create a ring like system, the first MMRDA official quoted above said.
The MMRDA is now hoping to commission the two lines by mid-2021.
The Kanjurmarg car shed issue
The MMRDA was looking at vacant former salt pan lands at Kanjurmarg to build a car depot for its under-construction 14.5-km Swami Samarth Nagar-Vikhroli corridor.
Subsequently, the Thackeray-led MVA government decided to shift the car depot for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro from the contentious site at Aarey Colony to these former salt pans at Kanjurmarg. With Aarey being one of Mumbai’s few green lungs, there was severe public opposition to the plan of hacking trees to build a car shed there.
The former BJP government was in favour of continuing with the car shed at Aarey citing time and cost concerns, while the Shiv Sena was opposed to the plan.
Under the Thackeray reign, the state government dug up papers to show the ownership of the Kanjurmarg plot and the collector transferred the land to the MMRDA.
However, the Centre has also claimed ownership of the plot, and other litigants too have come forward claiming portions of the plot. The Bombay High Court has for now stayed the transfer of the Kanjurmarg land to MMRDA, and the fate of the car shed is hanging in balance not just for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro, but also for the Swami Samarth Nagar-Vikhroli line.