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Science academies voice support for Bodi Neutrino Observatory

The support comes after continued protests led by MDMK general secretary Vaiko who had carried out a ten-day march against the INO earlier this month.

mumbai Updated: Apr 20, 2018 00:37 IST
Snehal Fernandes
Snehal Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Science,Academy,Bodi Neutrino Observatory
Country’s first India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) will come up at Bodi West Hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu.

Three Indian science academies have jointly spoken out in strong support of the proposed underground India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Bodi West Hills of Theni district, Tamil Nadu.

The joint statement by the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, the National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad, and the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS), Bengaluru is following continued protests led by Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko who had carried out a ten-day march against the INO earlier this month.

“There are good reasons to oppose many projects. But if we oppose a project like this (INO), it makes us a real obscurantist country. We are a scientific nation and we should support good science,” said Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, president, IAS. “The country should be supporting the INO because it is a pure science project, and will not hurt or harm anybody.”

INO, the country’s biggest basic science facility to be built at a cost of Rs1500 crores will study atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the earth’s atmosphere. Neutrinos are key to understanding the evolution of the universe, energy production mechanisms in the Sun and other stars.

“The site selected for INO has been chosen after an extensive nationwide site survey. All environmental regulations will be adhered to and no residents will have to be relocated,” the statement read.

Last month, the union environment ministry granted environment clearance for the project. Approvals are now being sought from the Tamil Nadu pollution control board and from the National Board of Wildlife since the Mathikettan Shola National Park in Kerala’s Idukki district is about 4.9kms from the proposed site.

Explaining that INO can consolidate India’s position as a leading scientific nation, the statement read, “The Science Academies hereby appeal to people of the district, state, and country to support this educational and research project wholeheartedly. A successful INO experiment will be a major technological and scientific national achievement.”

Welcoming the joint statement, Naba Mondal, former project director, INO, and retired physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, said, “Science academies don’t come out with a statement often. They speak up only when there is a crucial point, and I am happy they are doing their responsibility. We want to create a science infrastructure in the country, and it’s time to say ‘enough is enough’.

The proposed India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) will be located 1200 metres under Bodhi West Hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu (110kms from the temple town of Madhurai) . Coordinated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the INO is a collaborative project involving nearly 100 scientists from more than 25 central and state universities and research institutes. An Inter-Institutional Educational and Research Centre for High Energy Physics (IICHEP) will be established at Madurai, about 110kms from the proposed INO site for operationalizing the underground laboratory

From the joint statement:

The Science Academies of India are strongly supportive of the establishment of such an experimental facility for its intrinsic scientific value. In addition to enabling Indian researchers to make a unique contribution to our understanding of several fundamental problems of physics, a major effort on this scale will also contribute significantly to the development of education and research infrastructure in Tamil Nadu.

“The INO will help us learn more about neutrinos which are elementary particles that have no charge and almost no mass and therefore do not affect anything they pass through. They are naturally produced in the atmosphere of the Earth and are present around us at all times, causing no damage.”

First Published: Apr 20, 2018 00:37 IST