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Neutrino Observatory project in TN gains momentum after Tiger authority gives green signal

Chennai, Feb 15 (BPNS)

The Indian Neutrino Observatory project (INO) coming up in Theni district of Tamil Nadu has gained momentum after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given its ‘ no- objection’ to build the project inside the Tiger corridor in Theni.

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) which is one of the partners of the prestigious project has on Monday submitted before the Supreme Court of India that the NTCA had given a no-objection certificate to the Union Environment Minister in March last year.

The TIFR in its contention said that Rajendra C Garawad, Deputy Inspector General of Forests at NTCA had in an e-mail to the Union Environment Minister said,” Approximately 0.88 km of  underground tunnel of the proposed project is inside the tiger corridor. Further, this authority has no- objection to the proposed project as the tunnel is underground.”

The Supreme Court will hear the matter further on February 22. It is to be noted that the Neutrino project of the Government of India is to come up at the Pottipuram village in the Bodi West Hill bordering Kerala and will be the largest basic science project in India.

The underground laboratory coming up at the project will house a 50-kilo ton magnetized iron calorimeter detector to detect atmospheric neutrinos.

The Neutrino Project Director, Gobinda Majumdar in a statement on Monday said that the project comprises 26.825 hectares of revenue land above ground and 4.62 hectares of land underground comprising the tunnels and lab caverns.

He said that the surface facilities are purely restricted to the revenue land and lie totally outside the forest land and that there won’t be any disturbance to the forest land or tiger corridor. As far as the underground construction is concerned,  the tunnel entrance commences at the revenue land and the horizontal tunnel is deep before it enters the forest land.

However forest officials of  Tamil Nadu are skeptical of the project and dismissive of the idea and a senior officer said,” As per Section 38-O(1)(g) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, areas linking one tiger reserve or protected area with another tiger reserve or protected area are not diverted for ecologically sustainable uses, except in public interest and with the approval of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) and on advice of NTCA”

The wildlife authorities also said that these corridors are the key to tigers’ genetic flow and dispersion that leads to an increase in the tiger population. He said that the Mathikettan –Periyar tiger corridor was in a very small strip of land that is not more than 1 km in width and was extremely vital as it is the only link to Periyar Tiger Reserve, Mathikettan Shola National Park, Annamalai Tiger Reserve, Eravikulam national park and the Srivilluputhur Meghamalai Tiger reserve for the free movement of tigers.

It is to be recalled that the INO project of the Government of India has drawn flak from environmentalists that it would lead to the disturbance for the ecologically sensitive areas of Theni and the Mathikettan Tiger reserve. Senior CPM leader and then Kerala Chief Minister, V.S. Achuthanandan had also raised his objections to the project and had come out strongly against the possible degradation the project would cause to the environment and the tiger life.