In the process, ecological sustainability has been sacrificed, as can be seen with Aarey.
On Friday, the Bombay high court dismissed four petitions challenging the car shed for the Metro project in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) moved swiftly – within 24 hours, it cut 2,134 trees out of 2,646 trees on the site. The massive public outrage that followed compelled the Supreme Court on Monday to stay further tree cutting in Aarey.
Meanwhile, the government continues to insist that there is no alternative to building the facility in Aarey, since other sites are not publicly owned, and therefore may be too expensive to acquire. Aarey is an approximately 1,200 ha of green cover contiguous with the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Nevertheless, one alternative site for the car shed project is a large vacant plot of land in the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) – that is public land, along the proposed metro line, and large enough to accommodate the facility.
But the site’s high real estate value makes this proposition unthinkable for the government. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the metro rejects this site because it can be “used more gainfully for property development [or] commercial exploitation”.
To profit from land, the first step is to make it appear scarce. So how will Mumbai produce ‘affordable’ housing? By filling up salt-pan lands. How will we build metro yards? By levelling and concretising our forests. How will we carve out highways? By reclaiming the coast. How will we house our millions? By snatching away land from the poor and stacking them in penal conditions. Meanwhile, all the land that lies under-used such as the defunct mills, the port, BKC, on the mainland, will make way – “more gainfully” – for commercial complexes, luxury housing, and shopping malls.