CHENNAI: In what would bring cheers among hundreds of scientists who have been eagerly waiting for implementation of the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project for the past one decade, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on Monday formally granted environmental clearance.
This comes within a month after the expert appraisal committee (EAC) recommended the grant of environment clearance. In a letter addressed to INO project director VM Datar, the director of MoEF&CC Kushal Vashist said that as per the EAC recommendations, the ministry hereby accords environmental clearance to the neutrino project at Pottipuram village in Uthamapalayam taluk in Theni district promoted by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, under the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 and amendments/circulars issued thereon.
The letter, which is accessed by Express, has been copied to the secretary of Department of Environment, Tamil Nadu, the chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board and the member-secretary of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
While listing out 40-odd specific conditions including obtaining mandatory consent to establish/operate from the TNPCB and clearance from the National Board for Wildlife, among others, the ministry has asked the project proponent to widely advertise in at least two local newspapers in the region informing that the project has been accorded environmental clearance. The advertisement shall be made within seven days from the date of receipt of the clearance letter and a copy of the same shall be forwarded to the regional office of the Ministry at Chennai.
“Any appeal against this clearance shall lie with the National Green Tribunal, if preferred, within a period of 30 days as prescribed under Section 16 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. A copy of the clearance letter shall be sent by the proponent to the concerned panchayat, zilla parisad/municipal Corporation, urban local body and the local NGO, if any, from whom suggestions/ representations, if any, were received while processing the proposal. The clearance letter shall also be put on the website of the company by the proponent,” the ministry official said in the letter.
The ministry also said it reserved the right to add additional safeguard measures subsequently, if found necessary and to take action including revoking of the environmental clearance under the provisions of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, to ensure effective implementation of the suggested safeguard measures in a time-bound and satisfactory manner. And, in case of any changes in the scope of the project, the project would require a fresh appraisal by the ministry. The TNPCB, the District Industries Centre, the Collector and tahsildar office were asked to display a copy of the clearance for 30 days, besides uploading it on the website.
When contacted, a senior official in the TNPCB told Express that the board was yet to receive a copy of the letter. “We haven’t got the letter from the ministry nor the fresh application for consent to establish/operate from the project proponent,” the official said.Meanwhile, G Sundararajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, who petitioned the National Green Tribunal against the neutrino project, has condemned the clearance and termed it as ‘illegal’. He claimed the ministry has bypassed the laws and the categorical order from the tribunal.
“While the tribunal has said it is a Category A project in its judgement, the ministry has still gone ahead and cleared the project under Category B. No public hearing nor Environment Impact Assessment was done. This is anti-constitutional, anti-people and anti-national. We will challenge the clearance before the tribunal,” he said in a statement.
Yet to receive letter copy
When contacted, an official in the TNPCB told Express that the board was yet to receive a copy of the letter. “We haven’t got the letter from the ministry nor the fresh application for consent to establish/operate from the project proponent,” the official said.