The National Green Tribunal has reportedly scrapped the Environmental Clearance (EC) from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for the Rs 1,500 crore India-based Neutrino Observatory, which was proposed to be set up underground in Theni region of Tamil Nadu. According to a report published by The News Minute, the south bench of NGT has asked the project team to file for a fresh clearance from the Environmental Ministry. As per the reports, the decision by the bench has not pleased the scientist community who were pushing for the project in the Bodi west hills of Theni district.
The decision came after G Sundar Rajan of Poovulagin Nanbaragal filed a petition in the court claiming the the project is within 10 km from the boundary of areas which are protected under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, and hence requires a further study from accredited agency and hearing to get green nod, the New Indian Express reports. The NGT in its ruling further said the project requires another clearance from National Board for Wildlife as it lies near a national park.
The environmental body has not withdrawn any other clearance including the forest and land clearance, according to reports, saying the government of India has sanctioned land and funds to the project and hence they cannot be cancelled. The project was granted Rs 1,583.05 crore in January 2015 by the Central government.
Former Atomic Energy Commission chairman R K Sinha, speaking to Indian Express in January 2016, had said that the project holds no threat to the environment but is being opposed on “completely unscientific grounds”. “The project has been sanctioned and environmental clearance has been given, but opposition on completely unscientific grounds was launched by an individual. There is no reason to object, but having carried out false propaganda through the media, that individual now finds it difficult to back out though he has been convinced,” Sinha had said.
The ambitious INO project is proposed to be a world-class underground facility to study fundamental particles called neutrinos. Over 66 acres of land was sanctioned by the the Tamil Nadu government to the project for constructing the observatory and setting up accommodation facilities for the scientists.