The Bombay High Court today refused to stay the tunnelling work for the proposed Metro III line along the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz route. The court, however, said that it will consult specialists from the IIT-Bombay over examining the effect of such tunnelling and drilling work on the foundation of the several heritage buildings in South Mumbai. A bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar was hearing a petition filed against the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) by the trustees of the J N Petit Institute that is housed in a 119-year-old heritage building on D N Road. The petition, filed through advocate Fredun De’Vitre, seeks a stay on the ongoing work at the proposed Hutatma Chowk metro rail station along line III on the ground that the work was causing damage to the old buildings, including several heritage structures in the area.
According to the petitioners, on August 25, a heavy limestone finial adorning a portion of the JN Petit building’s ceiling had fallen down due to the constant vibrations from the ongoing tunnelling work for the metro. The petitioners told the court today that while they were not opposed to the metro work, it must be halted at least till a “comprehensive survey of all buildings in Fort area is conducted by an independent structural engineer”. “The court can direct any capable structural engineering firm or conservation architect to conduct a survey on the condition of these buildings and the effect that the metro work will have on the foundation of these buildings,” advocate De’Vitre said. The petitioners also argued that while the metro authorities claimed that these vibrations reaching the buildings were within the prescribed limits of 5 mm per sec, “in reality, the vibrations emanating from the metro work were up to 20 mm per second”.
At this, Chellur said while the court could not stop the metro work altogether, she will consult specialists from the IIT-Bombay, who are scheduled to visit the HC this evening. “We have entrusted the survey of the high court building to IIT-Bombay. We can ask them to conduct this survey. Or, if they have their hands full, then they can suggest some other specialist,” Justice Chellur said. “We are concerned about the safety of the citizens. But, stopping the work altogether is no solution since the metro is meant for the welfare of the people,” she said. “The MMRDA and Mumbai Metro should also not oppose such a survey. Let us not go by our egos. All parties should accept this with an open mind,” Justice Chellur said.
Meanwhile, while hearing another petition opposing the Metro work, this one on the ground of “indiscriminate felling of trees,” Justice Chellur granted permission to the MMRDA to cut 216 trees along the stretch between Andheri (East) and Dahisar (East) to make way for the Metro 7 line. She, however, directed the court-appointed grievance redressal committee to look into the apprehensions of the petitioner, Zoru Bhatena, over the felling of such trees. Bhatena had argued that while about “1,000 trees were to be felled along the above stretch for Metro 7 line, the authorities had failed to identify these trees.”
“Instead, they are recklessly felling whichever tree they feel like,” Bhatena said. The High Court, however, said that the public must let the administration do its work. “If the public sits on the administration’s head for everything, no work will be done. There is a specific committee to look into all tree felling complaints. Take your apprehensions to them,” Justice Chellur said. “However, if you feel that there is any arbitrariness in the administration’s exercise of power, then you are welcome to approach the court,” she said.