NGO challenges green clearance to neutrino project in TN

Poovulagin Nanbargal has filed a petition before the NGT seeking to declare null and void the clearance given to setting up of the lab.

The environment clearance accorded to the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) to set up a lab in Theni district has been challenged at the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi by an NGO that has been up in arms against the project.

Poovulagin Nanbargal has filed a petition before the NGT seeking to declare null and void the clearance given to setting up of the lab  —  the first of its kind in India that would study atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in a 1,200m deep cave under a mountain —  in the forests near Bodinayakkanur, 525 km from here.

The INO project has been under a cloud since 2010 and the clearance accorded to it was challenged by the same NGO at the NGT Southern Bench in Chennai.

The bench cancelled the clearance in 2017 and asked the company to file a fresh application under Category "A" instead of Category "B".

But, the environment ministry has accorded the latest approval under Category "B" which activists term illegal". 

G Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal said a project of such nature, that, too, coming up close to an ecologically sensitive area, has been approved without conducting Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

"Also, EAC has no jurisdiction to appraise Category B project, besides failing to consider any of the concerns raised by the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) regarding the potential adverse impact of the project," he said.

The NGT quashed the environmental clearance last year saying the project should be categorised under Category "A" and not "B" as it has been done by the government.

The NGT wanted the project to be classified as Category "A" since the location falls within 5 km of the Madhikettan Shola Natural Park in Kerala and from the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border.

If a project is classified as "Category A", several processes should be followed before granting the clearance, the environmentalists said.

Since the project involves tunnelling and excavation of six lakh cubic metres of Charnockite rock from the mountain, environmentalists and villagers feel it would have a cascading effect on various natural resources.

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