Mumbai underground metro hits roadblock: Fire temple trustees demand Parsi contractor for survey

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MUMBAI: Mumbai’s dream to have an underground metro may have reached a new roadblock. The line three of the Mumbai Metro between Colaba and Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ) has encountered an unlikely problem this time.

The 33.5-kilometre underground metro system will be passing through a Parsi agyari (fire temple) in Marine Lines, which has raised concerns among the trustees of the fire temple.

To put this in context, a non-Parsi cannot enter an agyari, putting the contractors in a spot as they need to map the location as well as check the building condition before proceeding with the construction of the metro line.

While the trustees have assured support for the project, the religion factor threatens to delay the project. The trustees, however, have sorted a middle path to break the deadlock: Have a Parsi contractor survey the fire temple.

Realising the religious sentiment attached to the issue, the MMRC seems to be working with the temple trustees to resolve the issue.

“Our contractors are carrying out building condition survey in the area, including the Parsi fire temple. This request has been conveyed to us by the temple authorities and, respecting their sentiments, we are working in coordination with temple authorities. They are helping us in resolving the issue so that the building condition survey is carried out without infringing any religious beliefs and sentiments,” Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director of the MMRC, told.

Given the minuscule population of the Parsi community in Mumbai, which stands at around 57,000 as per the 2011 Census, it would be interesting to see whether the MMRC will be able to find any Parsi contractor. Or else, they may have to count on eminent architect Hafeez Contractor to rescue them.

The underground metro has already missed its deadline by two years and is now expected to begin only in 2022. The underground metro first encountered protests from locals in Aarey Milk Colony, where the MMRC would be building a shed. Since last two years, activists have been protesting against the project claiming that the project will affect the local environment.

The protest against the alleged encroachment also got traction on social media, with activists launching the ‘Save Aarey Movement’ to spread awareness on the issue.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis later appointed a panel to resolve the deadlock. However, the contentious issue has lingered, with the MMRC awarding the contract to a New Delhi-based construction firm on Thursday. The latest decision has angered activists, who claim that the project will lead to the cutting of over 3,000 trees.

The metro project had also come under attack from residents of Kalbadevi and Girgaum in 2015, who fearing displacement wanted a in-situ rehabilitation. A year later, the government later assured 737 families of the area with newer and bigger flats.

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