Christians, Parsis discuss Metro threat to structures

The controversy over the proposed underground metro rail tunnels at Jagannath Sunkersett Marg in Girgaum has brought together Christians and Parsis for the first time to discuss the project at a joint meeting on Sunday.

Article by Nauzer K. Bharucha | TNN

Fr Anthony Fernandes of the ancient St Teresa’s Church in Girgaum said it was a “human rights issue” more than a religious one as lives of many residents of old buildings are at risk. “Tenants of these buildings are totally helpless. We have to be the voice of the voiceless,” he told the gathering. Fr Anthony said the project must be a “win win” situation for all “but not at the cost of human lives”. He added, “There must be alternatives which should be feasible.”

imageAlignment maps of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) show the tunnel running underneath the church, which dates back to the late 18th century.

Parsis too are protesting as the tunnel will run underneath the 187-year-old Wadia Atash Behram (fire temple) and skirt Anjuman Atash Behram (built in 1897) at the Princess Street junction in south Mumbai.

Thousands of residents living in old and dilapidated buildings along Sunkersett Marg are worried that tunnelling and excavation work could severely damage their buildings. An RTI query revealed that 85 buildings are in “severe” to “very severe” condition. Structural engineer Jamshed Sukhadwala, who addressed the gathering, alleged that MMRC was not entirely forthcoming on putting technical details in the public domain. Even building survey reports of each building are not being shared with residents, he said, stating that MMRC does not have a contingency plan in case of a disaster.

“An underground corridor is a highly technical project. The geological structure of Mumbai is very different from Delhi and Bangalore,” he said. Sukhadwala said he had urged metro officials to strengthen old Girgaum buildings before commencing tunnel work. “They (MMRC) have not gained the people’s confidence,” he said.