Response to ToI story on GMLR

Hi Clara,

Writing with respect to your 17th May story on GMLR. “Green Clearance is no longer needed for SGNP tunnel: BMC

I would like to highlight that the current alignment with tunnels was my proposal and not the original plan by MCGM in 2014 when work first started under SVR Srinivas. Left to the MCGM proposal and alignment of 2014 GMLR would have been ready by now passing through the current Aarey Road. If the tunnel is coming up it is only because some of us disrupted the original alignment and I pushed strongly for the tunnel.

It would be a generally accepted principle that in any newspaper story all important facts pertaining to a matter should be covered and due credit should be provided to those who have played an integral role.

I would like to highlight the following facts for your information and consideration.

1) In July 2014 Aarey Road was handed over for upkeep and jurisdiction from PWD to MCGM. The condition of the road was pathetic and it was one of the major civic issues. The road was till then tolled and yet the road was in a bad condition.

Please have a look at the story below, which clearly highlights the issue and also MCGM plans for GMLR through this road.

https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/BMC-to-take-over-Aarey-Colony-road-and-make-it-toll-free/articleshow/40144071.cms?prtpage=1

GMLR as per this alignment in 2014 would be along Aarey Road till Powai and then move northwards along Bhandup pumping station road axis to come to Mulund. In the process 2000 trees were to be cut. There was no alarm from anybody in the city then except Manish Gadia and myself.

 

2) I highlighted the inefficiency of such an alignment in my blog posts and media comments then. My first blog post on the same was on 28th August, 2014

https://rishiaggarwaal.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/gmlr/

Two days after the blog post I sent the first email to Mr. Srinivas on the matter seeking a meeting with him.

Through engaging Srinivas then I single handedly brought a stop to MCGM plans to start the work on widening of Aarey road for GMLR purposes. Manish Gadia was actively involved in the pressure but the initiative to bear down heavily on Srinivas was mostly mine.

We invited a few others, notably Sunjoy Monga and Anand Pendharkar to join in the efforts but there was no participation from either of them right till the end when we tasted success. Not even a congratulatory message.

Copies of the originating email and one later one from Manish Gadia for your perusal

30th August 2014

Recipients list of email on 30th Aug, 2014

Alarm email by Manish Gadia on 6th November 2014

 

3) In November of 2014, the local ward office had clear orders to start cutting trees post Diwali to make way for GMLR preparations. We were continuously in touch with the Assistant Commissioner at P(South) Office and the staff. During the clean-up drive kept at Aarey on 2nd November 2014 I even confronted Ravindra Waikar strongly at the Aarey Garden when he shouted back at me.

On November 11, 2014 we finally got a meeting with Srinivas on the matter. He rejected the tunnel idea (too costly according to him) then suggesting that he will consider an elevated option where neither the road will be widened nor trees cut. I was not sure how this would be possible but we agreed to such a plan as a means to buy time and avert the imminent cutting of trees which was beginning soon.

The tunnel was my most favoured option even then. Though I came for a lot of criticism in the nature community.

Letter submitted on 11th November, 2014 as part of the final meeting

4) The tunnel proposal as described in your article was written by me to MCGM citing all the advantages now ascribed to MCGM. Ranjeet Jadhav of Mid-Day even covered the matter prominently in a full page feature. Please have a look at image below of the article. My views have been covered in great detail. It came to my mind then that Mr. Padikkal and others had also suggested a tunnel option a few years ago, with one arm from the Kandivali end.

Mid-Day article from 27th November, 2014

5) Save Aarey movement was not such a big global name then but it became big because of all these big interventions of 2014 and 2015. Many who are now the face of the movement played no role in many of these developments. The early successes led to the subsequent demise of the movement because there was a rush by all and sundry to be the face of the movement.

In 2014 there was hardly any participation from people forget noisy rhetoric like now. Had there been no opposition from a few of us GMLR would have easily gone ahead on Aarey Road with 2000 trees being cut. With abundant knowledge of the alignment coming up there was no opposition from the large number of members who make up Aarey walkers Club (mostly businessmen who don’t want to mess with the establishment in anyways and would have been at ease with seeing the trees being cut). Nor from Bittu Sahgal or Anish Andheria or Anand Pendharkar or Vanashakti/Stalin (who were still to open their Aarey account)

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