MADURAI: The Indian based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project director Naba K Mondal says the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified Pottipuram, Theni district as the place for the project only after detailed assessment of geology and seismicity of the area.
He dismissed the MDMK leader Vaiko’s claim that the project would cause an environmental disaster.
“We are ready for open discussion with Vaiko on this project, but he should support his argument with scientific evidence. We have invited social activist Medha Patkar for talks recently and clarify all her doubts about the project,” he said.
Mondal, during his visit to Madurai for a national symposium on Particles, Detectors and Instrumentation at the Inter-Institutional Centre for the High Energy Physics (IICHEP) of INO at Vadapalanchi near Madurai Kamaraj University on Sunday, said “You may ask why we haven’t selected Himalayas for this project. In fact we asked GSI to identify a place in Himalayas, but they rejected it for two reasons: it is a highly seismic zone and the rocks in Himalayas are sedimentary in nature which is not suitable for the project.”
The rocks in the south below 12-degree north latitude come from much older rock. And the proposed site at Pottipuram where the underground laboratory would be built with a rock cover of nearly 1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India, was charnockite, a strong granite rock, he said.
He also said that charnockite rocks in the Western Ghats near Pottipuram were not an aquifer (an underground layer of permeable rock sediments that yields water), but a rock mass and in most areas it was massive with very little weathering.
“Moreover the project will not cause any damage either to Mullaiperiyar or to Idukki dam. For instance at Pykara dam in Ooty, the TNEB dug a tunnel vertically from the dam to drain water downstream and to produce electricity. And even in Mullaiperiyar dam, there is a tunnel below the dam for the same purpose,” he said.
Responding to claims by environment activists that INO got the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance from an unaccredited institution called Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Mondal said, “Yes it was not an accredited institution, but it was an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). We approached them for EIA because it was working under MoEF in 2009,” he said.
Moreover the MoEF will not approve the project solely based on EIA clearance report. “After we submitted the project proposal for clearance through the Tamil Nadu Environment and Forest department, the MoEF has formed an expert panel to look into it,” he said.
“After examining the EIA, detailed project report and geotechnical investigation, the committee will meet us to clarify their doubts before it approved the project.”