The Foolish Controversy Over the Aarey Metro Depot

Blocking urban transit projects to "save the environment" will only do the opposite

Aarey is a neighbourhood in the northern Mumbai suburb of Goregaon. Aarey houses the famous Aarey Milk Colony and is famous for being a green zone, a lung space full of trees and greenery, a treasure indeed in a world where cities are incessantly being rid of their green cover under the guise of “development” by unscrupulous developers, corporations, politicians and such thieves, robbing people of their right to clean air. And now, lo and behold, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) is planning to construct the car shed for its trains for the Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro from Colaba to SEEPZ at Aarey, precisely in the Aarey green zone, the above-mentioned lung space! Disaster! Brace yourself for the impending smog and a choking death accompanying the drastic fall in the number of O2 molecules! The affluent denizens of the city including the so-called glitterati and other self-important people have been up in arms, decrying the draconian move to cull thousands of trees to build a shed. A SHED, for heaven’s sake! How ridiculous! Atrocious!

The Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro is the largest public transit project the city will undertake ever since the British finished building its railway network around 1932. The line will start from the extreme southern point of the city at Cuffe Parade/Colaba and then run northwards for 34 kilometres before terminating at Aarey/SEEPZ in Goregaon. It will run more or less parallel to the Central and Western Railway’s suburban lines covering areas and places lying between them. While this might seem to be duplicating of resources, it is not so, because an urban metro line and a suburban railway line are two different things. Here is a map of the Mumbai Metro Line 3 route (Green)

Courtesy: The Metro Rail Guy

The Mumbai Metro line 3 looks like it has been purpose-designed to primarily act as what a metro line should be, a feeder line to the city’s primary transport channel, the suburban railway, and an interchange line for other transport modes, connecting the airport and three out of the four railway termini in the city. It will interchange with Western Railway line at Churchgate, Mahalaxmi, Bandra Terminus and with the Central Railway line at CST, and with both at Dadar. It will have three stations at the airport, at T1, Sahar Road (T2) and at the new T3 terminal. It interchanges with the Metro line 1 at Marol and with the Metro line 2 and the proposed high-speed railway terminal at BKC. It also connects high-density residential and commercial areas like BKC, MIDC, Mumbai University, Shitladevi, Prabhadevi, Mahim, Kalina, Worli, Dharavi, Powai, Siddhivinayak etc and solves the problem of the absence of rail connectivity to its high-profile southern areas like Colaba, Bandstand, Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point etc. Imagine, you will never have to board a local train to get from Churchgate to Dadar! As a last-mile connect line, it is going to take tens of thousands of autos, taxis and private cars off the road, and will to an extent, reduce overcrowding on the Mumbai Local trains! Imagine how much pollution the metro will take off the air. The problem here is, according to the protestors, that trees are being cut to serve the Metro, which will deplete the city of its Oxygen.

A view of Mumbai over Santacruz and Vakola towards the South and the choked WEH and the massive amounts of pollution in the air. The Mumbai Metro Line 3 will pass right underneath at this point. 

Should Trees be Sacrificed to Build the Metro Line?

No. The Line 3 runs underground for its entire length, except for the depot housed at Aarey Milk Colony. This depot is called in railway terminology a shed, and for obvious reasons, cannot be housed underground. It has to be above ground, and unfortunately, there is no other place to build the depot than in the given place. So, what do we do? We cannot cut the trees, neither can we cancel the project. One thing that can be done is to change the route of the line. Instead of running it to Aarey, the line can turn right from SEEPZ and run along the JVLR via Powai, Hiranandani, Kanjurmarg and the Eastern Express Highway to terminate somewhere beyond it, where there is plenty of marshy wastelands available to build a depot, and the Metro can be built overground from SEEPZ as well. And overall, this will make more sense for commuters too, as the Metro will cover more areas and connect one more railway station (Kanjurmarg). MMRCL could very well examine this option? But since public projects in India are still largely executed in colonial ways with little or no involvement of public opinion and are decided by babus and top politicians in ways to maximise their gains alone, there is little chance of suggestions like these being considered.

Now, let us go back to the claims of how metro asphyxiating Mumbai. Here is a tweet from one of the greatest faces of the protest.

He thinks they are going to build a “shed” in the forest and park trains underneath it or something. Dear dumb Bollywooders, a “shed” is railway terminology for the building complexes that are used to house and repair trains. And yes, this “shed” will give out fresh air. It is actually YOU who, despite all your hypocritical machinations, are actually denying fresh air to the city and its residents! The guy in question drives around in a gas-guzzling Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover! It is ostentatiously rich when a guy who drives multiple SUVs that all return less than 5 kilometres to the litre and alone fills up space that could accommodate a minibus carrying 10 people, pontificates about fresh air and oxygen and greenery and stuff! Almost all of this tribe are die-hard vehicle freaks, ostentatiously promoting thirsty, brawny cars and driving as the coolest thing to do, and then going back and protesting against public transport! I bet he will be outraging against crackers during Deepawali too. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and in all probability has no idea how the real world works, possibly believing that he can control the weather through poetry. What if I told you (and the rest of your uber-privileged lot) that you, by sitting in your AC offices and homes and driving all you want in your dumb cars are doing much worse to the environment than any railway line could ever do?

What you see above are some sheds being used to park some ancient rail vehicles in Bangalore

The real fact is that the outrage by Mumbai’s so-called glamorous and entitled denizens against railway projects has got more to do with their angst of being denied their rightful right to practice their elite pastimes, which is driving their expensive fuel-guzzling, noxious-smoke spewing cars around and preserve the trappings of their privilege. You might have noticed that this kind of outrage and protests are always selective, always directed against railways, metros, BRTS and other such public transport projects, and never, never ever against those that will enable private car driving. Indeed, much of these high-class hypocrites who are dead against railway projects in particular always seem to have no problem about huge highways and enormous flyovers. For instance, Mumbai is also planning some kind of a coastal highway that will cost around 300 crores to build per kilometre, and which will also irrecoverably destroy much of the city’s prized Mangroves. This will be an environmental disaster unparalleled which will really erode much of the city’s supply of “Oxygen”, the same stuff the city’s car-loving hypocrites seem to treasure so much. The destruction of Mangroves also is one of the reasons behind the city flooding after every brief spell of rain. However, yeah you guessed it right, there has not been a whisper of protest against this from any of those who had been howling about Aarey. It is always voiceless people who travel in trains, and who cares whether they live or die, choking on the fumes emitted from the resplendent rears of the privileged snobs’ (cars)?

What you see above is also from Bengaluru, displaying how rail projects can both protect and save the environment at the same time, and how rail projects are “greener” for more reason than curbing emissions. Environmental disruptions caused by rail projects are temporary, lasting only as long as construction is active. After the bulldozers and heavy trucks leave, vegetation can and will grow back until the edge of the permanent way and loss of vegetation will be limited to an area of maximum 10 meters wide in case of a double track railway line. However, in the case of roads, the destruction will be permanent. Not only will the width of land required for a road be many times that of the railway, but vegetation will never be allowed to grow back as in the case of the railway as roads will attract human habitation and commercial centres, ensuring more widescale de-vegetation. If the metro wasn’t built, all those trees would’ve been razed in the near future to widen the RV Road. All this is exclusive of the heavy atmospheric, noise and light pollution caused by incessant running of vehicles that we already know.

Urban development through the creation of green spaces cannot happen with an ever-expanding vehicle population, sir, because more and more trees will only be felled for roads and parking. If you REALLY care about the environment, you will first rid yourself of your gas-guzzlers, and get yourself an economical car or a Tesla. Most of the shit the world is in today is the result of the elite manipulating and influencing thought of the masses to meet their own narrow indulgent ends. One of the biggest examples of this is the world elite’s hatred for public transportation as it hinders the power of the oil and vehicle mafia, especially today when their supremacy has started eroding. If humanity is to survive, much less thrive, the notion of the private car being the representative image of transportation has to end. Trains have built and made Mumbai what it is, and only more trains can now save the city. When will we realize that that “shed” will indeed give out Oxygen, as opposed to what those monster-truck-driving, environment-killing hypocrites want you to believe?

Transportation experts will tell me that reduction in traffic and emissions as a result of new public transit projects is only temporary, as new vehicles will fill up those spaces vacated by transit riders. I know that. The next step would be to heavily disincentivize driving in cities, by imposing entry fees and other taxes, no-entry areas, curbing parking, enforcing speed limits and so on, which can be done only when there is a robust, efficient public transit system in place. Singapore does this, as do many cities in Europe, all which lead the world in quality of life indices. So dear Bollywooders, if you want all the people of Mumbai to have the same quality of life as you do, public transportation is the only way forward. But then again, why would you want that, right?

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