BMC again eyes Bandra agiary land

The Parsi agiary on Hill Road, Bandra (west), is in danger of losing its porch and part of its compound yet again. The civic administration is making another effort to acquire land for widening parts of Hill Road from the existing 60 to 90 feet.

Last year, the civic administration backed off from acquiring land belonging to the Tata Agiary and other heritage structures, like St Stanislaus school and St Andrew’s church, following stiff opposition from residents. The Tata Group of Companies chief Ratan Tata had also appealed to the BMC to not touch the agiary’s land. At that time, the corporation had given a verbal assurance that it would not touch any of these structures or the areas around them, until other open spaces required for the road-widening had been acquired.

The corporation has now once again proposed to acquire setback areas from the junction of S V Road up to St Martin’s Road near the Bandra police station. A civic circular says the fire temple is included in the acquisition plan.

The administration has emphasised that this is the only stretch where it plans to acquire land in the first phase of the widening. “The road leads to the upcoming Bandra-Worli sea link and it is vital to widen it for the smooth flow of traffic,” said an official. The BMC has already concretised the existing road.

The acquisition would affect around 39 residential tenements, 62 commercial establishments, the agiary and two structures that form part of the deputy commissioner of police’s office. A majority of the commercial structures in the area are jewellery and hardware stores.

Officials said there are plans to acquire around 19,990 square feet of setback area for the road-widening, which would cost the corporation approximately Rs 3.18 crore. The cost of rehabilitation of residential structures is Rs 1.8 lakh and commercial structures is Rs 4 lakh.

The BMC had earlier offered to shift the residential and commercial structures to Oshiwara, Andheri (west). This plan was rejected by the traders, who said their structures have been around since before 1962. Such a shift would ruin their businesses and livelihoods, they said. “If after so much agitation, the BMC agreed not to acquire the agiary land, how can it now go back on its word? The administration is aware that the agiary is on the list of heritage structures. We will not allow the acquisition under any circumstances,” said Shyama Kulkarni, member of the H-West Residents’ Association.

Kulkarni said the corporation’s current budget can accommodate the construction of a sky walk from Bandra station to St Martin’s Road, on Hill Road. “If this is implemented, then there is no need to acquire more land for widening the road. The BMC should first look at alternatives before touching heritage sites,” she added.