Tamil Nadu Opposes Indian Neutrino Observatory in Tiger Corridor

Last week, the Tamil Nadu government strongly urged the Centre to hold the proposal for setting up the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) in the state’s Theni Valley or Cumbum Valley. MK Stalin, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, wrote a letter to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, requesting to stop this project in the tiger corridor.

Over a decade ago, India started its journey to form a world-class scientific project called INO in Tamil Nadu. It is a particle physics research project. But it has again landed in controversy with some serious allegations. Some of the grave concerns are that the project planning is very unscientific.

Tamil Nadu says no to INO

Image: The Hindu

Moreover, it doesn’t adhere to the general environmental safeguards. So, the Tamil Nadu government is now against the project because it could threaten the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. Most importantly, they are worried that it could even impact the survival and natural habitat of the Indian National Animal – the Tiger.

Why government permitted the Indian Neutrino Observatory?

According to the Indian government, this project involves the formation of a proper two-kilometre tunnel. This tunnel will cut through the solid rock formation at the depth of around one kilometre from the hill’s peak.

The advantage of having an underground tunnel is that it won’t disturb the ecosystem or wildlife. And, with the development of the INO project, there’s a worldwide interest to explore various allied and diverse fields, like cosmology, physics, and the universe’s origin.

However, the TN government worries about the process of tunnel formation. That is because it requires a huge amount of dangerous explosives, which is not favourable for plants and animals.

Possible Threat To Tigers!

Reportedly, the site selected for the Neutrino project lies in the Mathikettan. This site has been mapped as the Periyar Tiger Corridor according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA). According to the TN chief minister, the tiger corridor has a critical purpose to maintain proper genetic flow. But this will be impacted because of the project activities.

In 2017, the Tamil Nadu SEIAA opposed this project because the tunneling work involves the use of composite and hard rock mass that needs several explosives to break it. Even if the tunnel will be 1 km below the ground, the noise and vibrations caused by huge explosives can disturb the global diversity of natural plant and animal species may suffer.

Furthermore, the fragile ecology of the tiger habitat is likely to feel an adverse impact. It is because tigers’ biological behavior makes them avoid the human presence and various other anthropogenic disturbances. So, even a minute of vibration in the land can completely impact their movement pattern. Besides that, the area even forms a significant water catchment and watershed of River Kottakudi and River Sambal. There are some small streams on Bodi Hill that join Periyar before finally draining into Vaigai Dam. Therefore, the government and wildlife conservation authorities are opposing the project citing the irreversible damage that it may cause.

Aim of the Project

As per the INO scientists, this ambitious project is most likely to give India a major lead worldwide in the neutrino science field. But this project is on hold for over 11 years now. And, the reasons for the stay are quite genuine as well.

So, it is up to the central government and the state government to come up with an ethical plan. The final INO project plan must not disturb the ecological diversity in the region.

Via: Mongabay

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