Letters To The Editor

Throwing Light On The Metro III Alignments by Maneck Engineer

Kudos to Parsi Times for bringing out an excellent article in the issue dated 11th November, 2017, with an exhaustive explanation along with diagrams, to clear the doubts from the minds of the community members, that the Metro does not undermine the sanctity of religious structures and hurts our religious sentiments. As a practising professional with 54 years experience, I decided to pen down my views, to the community, to redress the situation and if possible, try and remove the cobweb of ignorance.

In the last few months, our community stands divided on the alignment of Metro III which, some community members allege, is dangerously close to two Atash Behrams namely, The Anjuman Atash Behram and the Wadiaji Atash Behram and the Metro tube will affect the wells within the precinct. There has been a plethora of mails, WhatsApp and articles in the press that the Metro will affect the foundation of the sacred Heritage Structures and the old buildings along the route. The tube will also affect the Bikha Behram well between Hutatma Chowk and Churchgate station which may run dry. This affects the religious sentiments of the members of this highly educated community, in turn, has dragged the Dasturjis to approach the Cm and PM to realign the Metro tube. There is a fear that the proposed tube will cause vibration, when the trains move at a high speed, which will lead to devastation of the old buildings in a few years. I believe that this undermines the achievements of this highly enlightened and progressive community and therefore, the entire issue needs to be redressed. Who is to be blamed for this fiasco! We as a community or the promoters or the Government? Can the Metro tube route be changed? Yes/No.

The Metro line of Mumbai Metro also referred to Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro route is totally underground and has an estimated cost of Rs.23,130 Crores (US$ 3.6 billion) JICA (JAPAN International Cooperation Agency) will fund 57.2% of the cost. Though, this is a Centre-State joint venture with other stakeholders like MMRDA, Mumbai International Airport Ltd. Etc. decision cannot be taken by any one person. A consortium of Hongkong based AECOM Asia jointly with Padco, Japan; LBG Inc. USA; Egis Rail, France; are the consultants to the project. Totally international and therefore, any change will involve all the stakeholders and consultants and therefore, changes are highly improbable. Further, contracts have been awarded for the entire length and work has started in each location. In fact the TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) for the Girgaon stretch has arrived and lowered and the assembly is in progress. It does not make sense in politicising the issue at this late stage.

The two issues which these conscious keepers of the community are complaining about (1) The Wells will go dry (2) the tunnels are passing below Atash Behrams and therefore, the sanctity of the place is at stake. Well I would not like to contradict our learned Dasturjis as I am not a religious scholar but I can only say our religion is based on purity and care for nature/ environment and that is the essence of Zoroastrian philosophy. This method of mass transit system is totally environment friendly.

As most of you are aware that, for a large city like ours only two set of suburban railways viz. Central Railway and Western Railway constructed over a hundred and fifty years ago is not sufficient to cater for millions of commuters daily. A set of underground metro or an elevated one is the only solution. This should have been done fifty years ago. However, political and financial conditions were different and technology was not available and therefore, the delay. A decade back government decided to plan different routes of Metro, a rapid transit system to make commutation easier and safer and to reduce the traffic on existing road, which unfortunately, cannot be widened. One such route was earlier planned from Colaba to Bandra and later to SEEPZ (Andheri) and that is at present the bone of contention.

As regards issue of well water being drained off or, sucked into the tube which is impossible as the tube or the bore for the Metro runs totally through hard basalt rock at a depth of 20-30 mtrs. from ground. This boring is done by TBM Machine which has a hydraulic system which creates pressure and move further step by step, when its rotating disk crushes and pulverizes the rock which is taken out by a conveyor. The existing wells at all the locations are not more than 6 -7 mtrs deep and therefore, the water inside the well is only surface water which is replenished in the ground during rains. It is regrettable that nobody in our community has every gone into the purity of these well water which is one of the essence of our religion and I am compelled to put on record that I have collected and analysed the quality of the water in some of these wells from Agiaries where I am connected and I have found that the pollution in the water increases in summer and is negligible during the monsoon. In other words, there is contamination of water which is a greater problem than boring of the Metro tunnel.

As regards the stability of the structures, no structure will be affected by the TBM machine or the tube bore which is lined immediately after the boring is done and there are remote chances of any collapse inside the tunnel and therefore, the foundation of the building will not be affected in anyway. There will be no controlled blasting inside the Tunnels.

The sewer lines which are running underneath both the roads abutting the Atash Behram for over hundred years are more close to the consecrated chamber of Padshah Saheb than the proposed Metro Tube. Was this ever objected by our predecessors when they were laid, or were they more progressive?!

The stations are the only place where open excavation will be done and four sides walls of the station will retain the earth pressure and the surcharge of the building by construction of secant pile walls. This is a standard practice throughout the world and it is time tested. However, human errors and judgment always is a factor which can be taken care of by site engineers and supervisors and the safety officers in charge. The apprehension we had in case of J N Petit Institute whether construction of the station which is hardly few metres from the building and considering the fact that the building foundation is on sand, we moved the Mumbai High Court. However, the Metro authorities has given us and the Mumbai High Court full assurance that no untoward incident will happen. I had the privilege of talking with Eng Michael William of LandT, a Safety Officer who has worked on similar projects in Spain and Italy and he is confident that nothing will go wrong.

As regards sanctity of Sanctum Sanctorum, according to Dr. Sir Jivanji J Modi in his book “The Religious Ceremonies and Custom of the Parsees”, first published almost a hundred years ago, which, I am of the opinion is one of the finest book in English on the subject. In the chapter on consecration of the sacred fires, he has stated that the final consecration of all the 16 fires is done in a consecrated chamber, where it is to be enthroned and is separated from the adjoining place on the ground by ‘Pavis’ to keep it undefiled. The fire after being carried to its chamber, is placed on a large ‘Censer’ standing on a large stone pedestal, surrounded by a separate ‘pavi’ on all sides. In the chamber of the Sacred Fire, there are also permanent furrows cut in stone of the paved floor. We have always been given to understand that, this isolation process if full and final.

In my opinion, if the community members feel that the matter has not been handled effectively who is to be blamed! Community members’ minds are confused and are in disarray. It is rightly said that we Parsis are such individuals that when three meet there are four irreconcilable views, none of which are based on logic and rationality. It is high time that this community speaks with one voice. We expect the Dasturs also to speak with one voice and therefore, I fervently appeal to them to find solution to this problem if they so conceive. There is a lack of leadership at all levels. As we are dwindling in numbers, it is necessary to organize ourselves, so that our voice is heard in this fast changing world. The changes which have taken place in the last century are mind boggling and we have to adapt to the same.

May Ahura Mazda help us and guide us in this Arduous Task!

by Maneck Engineer

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