MADURAI: The Madras High Court bench today directed Tamil Nadu government to make clear its stand on India-based Nutrino Observatory, on a PIL by MDMK leader Vaiko who sought to prohibit setting it up in Theni district, claiming it would harm the lives of thousands of people and agricultural produce, besides endangering dams in the region.
Justices S Tamilvanan and V S Ravi described the INO project as a sensitive issue and directed the government to make it clear if they were for the project or not.
Not satisfied with Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's counter that the Centre had so far not approached them for clearance, they said it is for the state government to find out if INO would help local people and the country and at the same time ensuring it would not affect environment of the area.
When the Additional Advocate General said the public hearing on the issue had been obtained and the Collector had assured jobs for locals, the Judges pointed out that the Collector had assured jobs only for qualified people.
"We don't know if the village people at Pottapatti are scientists to get employment in the INO."
"The Tamil Nadu government's counter is like give mustard..tamarind..rice without giving actually the food," they said.
Vaiko submitted that the project was going on at a fast pace, requested the judges to visit the site and ascertain the facts and sought status quo.
However, the bench rejected it and said the state government should file a detailed report on the issue.
They then posted the case for hearing on March 5.
Vaiko also suggested that the court constitute an expert committee to find out if the INO project would affect the environment in the area.
He said that India, a signatory of the UN convention on the Heritage site, could not destroy the heritage environment site in Theni district for setting up the INO.
Additional Solicitor General G R Swaminathan said the writ was not maintainable as the INO was only in the initial stages with allocation of funds. It was premature for the MDMK leader to come up with a PIL now.
Vaiko wondered if research in INO would help Theni district and the state in particular and alleged it would help only global powers. The environment there would be destroyed and it would lose its forest and natural wealth. The project had come here after other states had objected to it, he said.
The MDMK leader said 37 lakh litres of water would be used for the project and the explosion underground to construct the tunnel would cause pollution and affect forest and wildlife.
Quoting various Supreme Court judgements, he said it was government's duty to protect the heritage environment and no
damage could be caused to a heritage site.
He took strong exception to government's view that the petition had been filed without knowledge about the project and said even the apex court had lauded him for showing public interest in the case against Sterlite plant.