The project was proposed to come up in Bodi west hills of Theni district

TNs controversial neutrino project to be shifted out to AP activists relieved
news Neutrino project Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 19:49
Written by  Pheba Mathew

Three months after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) to apply for fresh environment clearance from the union ministry, the project is likely to be shift to Andhra Pradesh from Tamil Nadu.  

The project was proposed to come up in Bodi west hills of Theni district.

Speaking to The News Minute, G Sundar Rajan of Poovulagin Nanbaragal, who had filed a petition in 2015 to the NGT, said, “The project has been planned to shift to Andhra Pradesh, they are looking for different sites,” he said.

“It is a very good thing that the project has moved out of Tamil Nadu, the Western Ghats will be saved and the livelihoods of the people living there will also be saved. Most of the people are depended on the reservoirs, there are close to 12 reservoirs in the area. They were going to blast about eight lakh rock with 4 lakh kilograms of explosives, so it's definitely affect the aquatic nature of that area, it will spoil them, Sundar Rajan said.

Sundar Rajan had stated that the project was just 4.5 km away from Mathikettan Shola National Park in Iduukki district in Kerala and one km away from the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border.

He had asked for a study to be conducted by an accredited agency and public hearing to be conducted to asses the environmental impact of the project, as it is within 10 km from the boundary of protected areas specified under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and inter-state boundaries. 

Asked about the environmental effects, “The Bodi west hills is ecologically fragile area because it is in the Western Ghats. Most of the well-known reservoirs are in that area, that is Mullaperiyar, Vaigai and all, the project will have impact on the reservoirs. The government did not study it properly.  Because of my complaint, they shifted the project to category A,” he said.

However, in Andhra Pradesh it will be a category B project, which means the state government themselves can give a clearance.

“The other reason for the project to be shifted out is that the Tamil Nadu government delayed providing the No Objection Certificate (NOC)”, Sunder Rajan said.

INO project director Vivek Datar told The New Indian Express that they have begun searching for alternative sites. “We cannot wait for ever. We waited for close to four long years to get approvals and tried convincing people about the national significance of the project and importantly doing it on time. But, there is no response from the government. On the other hand, the Andhra Pradesh government is very welcoming. So, we are weighing our options.”

In 2002, the project was presented to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Later in 2009, the Ministry of Environment denied permission to the project stating that the project falls in the buffer zone of the Madumulai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in Nilgiris. At last in August 2010, the project was given approval by Environment and Forest ministry to set it up in Bodhi West Hills in Theni district.

The land for the project was allocated in February 2012. In January 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the setting up of INO. Approved at a cost of Rs 1500 crore, the project will not only include an underground laboratory but also an iron calorimeter detector to study the properties of the neutrino. 

According to Nature, a weekly journal of science, “Neutrinos are abundant subatomic particles that are extremely hard to detect. Billions pass through each square centimetre of earth every second, but barely any leave a trace. The INO would study neutrinos produced when cosmic rays strike the atmosphere, and would seek to reveal the relative masses of the three known types of neutrino.”

In a Frontline magazine article, it is stated that neutrinos like protons and electrons, are subatomic particles - products of radioactive decay, but not radioactive themselves.