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HC dismisses petitions challenging Aarey metro car shed construction

The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a bunch of petitions challenging the proposed construction of a car shed for the Mumbai metro rail project.

A bench of Justices SC Dharamadhikari and PD Naik held that it had found no illegality in the state’s decision to approve the construction of the car shed across a 165-hectare plot in Aarey Milk Colony in the city.

It held that the petitioners in the case, some environmental activists and NGOs, had failed to prove that the proposed site for the construction work was part of forest land or an eco-sensitive zone.

It, however, directed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to follow all conditions imposed by the state and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on the construction work.

It also directed the state and the BMC to ensure that the MMRC complied with the restrictions on felling trees, carrying out compensatory re-plantation, and other environmental and statutory norms.

“After going through the documents (from the state and the BMC’s record), we have found nothing from which to conclude that the 165 hectares area is forest land,” the bench said.

It noted that though 1,287 hectares of the Aarey Milk Colony adjoining the Sanjay Gandhi National Park had been notified as an economic sensitive zone in 2016, the said 165 hectare plot was not part of the eco-sensitive zone.

The bench had reserved its verdict on the above petitions earlier this year.

In the pleas, the petitioners had argued that the Maharashtra government had illegally modified the draft Development Plan 2034 for Mumbai to show what was previously a green zone as that reserved for a car shed for the metro rail project.

The bench, however, noted that the state’s land records and development plans did not show the authorities had carried out any illegal modifications.

It said the state had approved the construction work in consonance with all statutory and environmental rules.

“We have no hesitation in rejecting the petitioners’ arguments that the state permitted use of forest land. However, merely because we are rejecting the pleas doesn’t mean that the MMRC will not comply with statutory and environmental norms,” the bench said.

“We are mindful of the environmental concerns raised. But the concerns are not being ignored by the authorities as is apparent by the conditions imposed by the authorities on MMRC. The permission for construction is not unconditional, a host of prior sanctions, approvals, and monitoring and supervisory mechanisms are already in place,” the bench said.

It added that the BMC and the state were free to revoke the permission for the construction of the car shed in case the MMRC violated any norms or conditions.

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