Hawaii’s loss may be Ladakh’s gain.
Alternative sites such as Hanle in Ladakh are being considered for the Thirty Metre Telescope project -- proposed to be the largest telescope -- after protests in Hawaii stalled its construction.
The telescope was to be constructed at Mauna Kea in Hawaii but protests by the indigenous population blocked the project.
“The construction was expected to start on Mauna Kea, Hawaii in 2015. However, it is now stalled due to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, revoking the construction permit on procedural grounds.”
“The State of Hawaii agencies are working on the permit process following the prescribed procedure by the court. TMT is pursuing the matter in consultation with the University of Hawaii (land lease holder) and other agencies. It seeks to construct TMT on Mauna Kea, which is the preferred choice,” said Bacham Eswar Reddy, programme director.
However, the project partners are also looking at alternative sites, both in the northern and southern hemispheres. These include sites in Chile, Hanle, Ladakh and others that are being evaluated for technical and logistical suitability.
“It is expected that on-site civil work on the project may be delayed by about 18-24 months. However, work on telescope and observatory subsystems continues across the partnership,” Reddy added.
India is a 10% partner in the TMT project, which includes China, Japan, Canada and the US. On the Indian side, the project is being handled by the Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Atomic Energy.
“The project is expected to improve employment opportunities for the local people besides development of the region. TMT being the largest optical and infrared telescope in the northern hemisphere will strengthen the domestic programme of the country in this field and lead to several discoveries, which will inspire future generations,” said Reddy.
“The project will also help develop state-of-the-art technologies and expertise in the country,” an official of the Ministry of Science and Technology said.