The Maharashtra government is looking to conduct an online public hearing on the proposed 27-storey Metro Bhavan in Aarey colony. The government had invited suggestions and objections, on the change in land-use for 2.03 hectare of land in the contested Aarey area from no-development zone to ‘Metro Bhavan and Metro Rail allied users,’ in August 2019.
Despite 2,563 objections filed by citizens, the state government is yet to conduct a hearing on the issue. In a letter sent to citizens who submitted their objections in June, the deputy director of town planning stated, “Considering the present situation due to Covid-19, the hearing will be conducted by online mode through video-conferencing.”
Citizens were asked to confirm their presence for the hearing through email. AB Patil, deputy director, town planning, said, “We are looking to conduct the hearing next week, after which we will submit a report to the state government.”
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which is executing the 13 Metro lines in the metropolitan region, planned a central operation and control centre on the 2-ha plot at Aarey. The basement-plus-27-floor building will be constructed at a cost of ₹ 1,033 crore.
The decision to construct Metro Bhavan in Aarey also stands on a sticky ground for the current state regime. After assuming office in November last year, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray stalled the construction of the Metro-3 car-shed at Aarey, stating that there will no more tree-cutting in the green lungs of Mimbai for the project. However, the government did not made its stance clear on the Metro Bhavan plan.
Environmental activist Zoru Bhathena, in his objection to the proposed building in 2019, stated that no land use change can be proposed in a green zone by the Maharashtra government without prior permission of the Union ministry of environment.
“It will not be out of place to state that MMRDA has hectares and hectares of its own vacant land all over Mumbai, which can easily be used to build a Metro Bhavan. There is no need to destroy a natural area for such purposes, when there is an abundance of vacant land already available.”