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India first neutrino observatory gets green nod from Centre

The country’s biggest basic science facility, to be built at Rs1,500 crore, will study atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the earth’s atmosphere

mumbai Updated: Mar 15, 2018 23:57 IST
Snehal Fernandes
Snehal Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Tamil Nadu,INO
Country’s first India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) will come up at Bodi West Hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu.

Almost a year after its environment clearance was suspended, Centre gave its nod for building country’s first India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Bodi West Hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. The clearance was given by the Union environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on March 5, which laid down conditions the project proponent has to fulfil.

The project will now be sent for an approval from Tamil Nadu government and National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), as Mathikettan Shola National Park in Kerala’s Idukki district is about 4.9km from the proposed site.

The country’s biggest basic science facility, to be built at Rs1,500 crore, will study atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the earth’s atmosphere. Neutrinos are key to understanding the evolution of the universe and energy production in the sun and other stars.

Scientists said an application seeking NBWL’s approval has also been filed. “The EAC’s recommendation for environmental clearance is only the first step. We are following up for the approval from the wildlife board. We are not on the wrong side of wildlife; it won’t get disturbed in the national park,” said Vivek Datar, project director, INO and physicist from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

Additional permission will be needed from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

“The last time we applied, nothing happened for two years. That was the bottle neck. But if the state government is supportive, we can get approval even in two weeks,” said Datar. “We don’t know when science will start.”

Work on constructing the INO, including the first module of 17 kTon magnetised iron calorimeter (ICAL) detector, will begin after the project gets all approvals. The ICAL will study the properties of neutrinos and specially to address the issue of neutrino mass hierarchy.

On March 20, 2017, the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed the INO to seek fresh environmental and wildlife clearance because observatory is located within the 5km buffer zone of the national park.

On concerns of radioactivity and leaching of water, EAC said: “Earlier concerns, as raised in the representation to the courts, have been explained to the court and there is no scope of any radioactivity or leaching of water. They have also clarified that based on studies, there will be no impact of blasting on any inhabitation in the vicinity.”

First Published: Mar 15, 2018 23:57 IST