Activists have long cautioned against the environmental effects of the project in the area, given the amount of construction work it requires.

Union Minister tells Parliament Neutrino project wont affect dams villages
news Environment Thursday, July 19, 2018 - 11:30

Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), who heads the Department of Atomic Energy said in Parliament on Wednesday that the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO), a particle physics research project that aims to study atmospheric neutrinos, would not affect dams and villages in the neighbourhood.

The INO project is to be constructed at the Bodi West Hills Reserved Forest in a 4,300-ft deep cave under Ino Peak in Theni district, Tamil Nadu. The project was granted clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in March this year, even as activists have been warning the government of the environmental risks it poses to the region and its people.

The site of construction lies close to the Mullaperiyar Dam on the Periyar River, shared by Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Dr Jitendra Singh was responding to questions from Kerala MP Joice George on on the first day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament on Wednesday,

Elaborating on the status of the project, the Minister said, “Environmental clearance for the project has been obtained. Application for Wildlife Clearance and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board(TNPCB) has been submitted. An 85-tonne prototype mini-ICAL detector has been built and is working at IICHEP premises in Madurai.”

In its March 2017 order, the National Green Tribunal noted the extent of the ecological damage that would be caused by the tonnes of explosives used to blast rocks to clear and construct the observatory in the Bodi West Hills area.

Responding to a question on whether the government has noticed that blasting under the said project will last for years to remove a huge quantities of rocks, the minister said, “The approximately 2 km-long tunnel and the laboratory caverns are required to be made using controlled blasting and take about 3 years to complete. The vibrations will not be above the acceptable limits of less than 1 mm/sec beyond about 200 m distance from the blast zone. The total amount of excavated rock is about 230,000 cubic metres. This is comparable to that removed from railway or road tunnels of similar length.”

With regard to studies conducted to assess the impact on the nearby dams and hydel power projects, the minister replied, “The vibrations reduce to negligible levels beyond a few hundred metres. Dams such as Vaigai and Mullaperiyar which are about 30 km away will not be affected. In fact, these vibrations will not even be felt in the nearby villages which are a few kms away.”

However, he did not provide any specific details of the study that was conducted.

Environmental activists have long cautioned against human-induced seismicity in the area, given the heavy construction involved.

The minister stated, “There is no possibility of seismic events triggered by work at the INO site. However, seismic monitoring has to be carried out during construction as an abundant measure of caution.”

Also read: Why the environmental clearance for the Neutrino project in TN is not as per law