Tiger conservation head to report on science project in tiger reserve


Gopal had visited the proposed site for Neutrino Observatory (INO) in Tamil Nadu's Mudumalai Tiger Reserve at Masinagudi on Monday in the backdrop of opposition from wildlife experts who alleged the project would endanger the elephant and tiger habitat. "The member secretary will soon submit a report to the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who after studying it has plans to visit the location," a senior official in the ministry said.

There have been strong opposition from the green lobby to the chosen site which is a buffer zone of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Observatory, planned to be built a kilometre under the surface, will be connected to the outside world by a 2 km-tunnel. It would be funded by the Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Science and Technology and UGC. More than 50 scientists from about 15 institutes and universities have promoted the INO believing that neutrinos hold the key to several important and fundamental questions on the origin of the universe and energy production in stars. However, animal welfare activists have objected to the project with NTCA member and BJP MP Maneka calling it as "an ill-conceived idea just to keep some of the retired scientists busy."

Tiger expert, Belinda Wright, said the proposed site is within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve – the first Biosphere Reserve in India and of global importance. As per the United Nations guidelines, research initiatives that feed conservation are welcome. But the INO research has no bearing on conservation, she added. Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles which make up the universe. Essential geographical requirements to set up a neutrino observatory are a 360 degree curve, rock-mass for at least a km, mountain feature which is at least a km or km and a half tall, little or no gorge area among others -- one of the reasons why the Nilgiris was chosen.

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