The Bombay High Court suggested the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to seek the opinion of an independent, expert body, on the possible damage that could be caused to two Parsi temples in the city due to the ongoing work on the third corridor of the metro project.
A bench of Justices A S Oka and R I Chagla advised the MMRC to consult independent experts to check whether the tunnelling work for the Metro III line would cause any structural damage to the two heritage temples or to any other structures within their precincts.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by the Parsi community in the city opposing the drilling work for two tunnels for the Metro III line.
The petitioners told the high court the MMRC was making two tunnels near Azad Maidan, South Mumbai, as part of the work on the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro III corridor.
As per the petition, these tunnels will pass directly under the two fire temples and Atash Behrams (sacred fires), one at the junction of Princess Street, and another at Kalbadevi in South Mumbai, both heritage sites.
The petitioners said the proposed work, in its current form, will lead to desecration of the holy places, threaten the structural safety of the temple buildings, both of which are heritage structures, and that the wells at the temples might run dry because of the tunnelling work.
The MMRC, however, informed the court that following the apprehensions of the Parsi community, it had altered the alignment of such tunnelling work by around four metres to ensure no damage was caused to the temples or the wells.
MMRC counsel Shrihari Aney told the bench that because of this alteration in the alignment, the tunnelling work would only “touch the verandah area” of one of the two temples.
He also assured the court that the tunnelling work would not cause any structural damage to the temples and the wells.
The bench, however, noted that besides the oral assurance, the MMRC had not submitted any expert opinions, or documents to convince the court that the heritage structures would not be damaged due to the tunnelling, or any other related work for the Metro III line.
“Considering that these are heritage structures, isn’t it important that the MMRC at least consult an independent, expert body to confirm that no damage is caused.
“What if the petitioners’ apprehensions come true and any of these structures are damaged? Their repair and restoration will be very difficult,” the bench said.
The 33.5-km Metro III line would be underground. The line will connect Cuffe Parade business district in the extreme south of the city to SEEPZ in North-central suburbs of Mumbai.