Science academies issue joint statement in favour of Neutrino project

DMK working president M K Stalin flags off a rally of MDMK leader Vaiko against Neutrino project, in Madurai. PTI

Days after the death of an MDMK supporter protesting against the proposed Indian Neutrino Observatory, three national science academies have appealed to the people in Tamil Nadu to support the experimental physics project as it would boost the education and research infrastructure in the southern state.

Approved by the Union Cabinet in December 2014, INO is an underground physics laboratory to be set up in Bodi West Hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu for carrying out front line experiments in particle (neutrino) physics.

However, opposition from local political parties and a section of the non-governmental outfits remained a stumbling block because of which no construction work started so far.

In the last week of March, INO received a fresh environmental clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forest, after the previous green approval was set aside by the National Green Tribunal.

Within days, an MDMK worker set himself ablaze protesting against the project and died. The party led by Vaiko steadfastly opposed the INO from the beginning.

"A major effort on this scale will also contribute significantly to the development of education and research infrastructure in Tamil Nadu. These benefits are not just for the short term," says a statement jointly issued by the Indian National Science Academy, Delhi; Indian Academy of Sciences, Bengaluru and National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad.

The experiment will also lead to the creation of a new Inter-Institutional Educational and Research Centre for High Energy Physics at Madurai.

Appealing to the people of the district, state, and country to support “this educational and research project wholeheartedly”, the academies said a successful INO experiment would be a major technological and scientific national achievement.

The three bodies also assured that every environmental regulations would be adhered to and no residents would have to be relocated for the facility that consists of a deep underground tunnel and laboratory and few overground structures.

On April 16, India and USA signed an agreement to collaborate on designing the detectors for two neutrino physics facilities in India and USA, including the INO.

But commencing civil construction of the observatory would take more time as the project proponent Tata Institute of Fundamental Research would have to obtain clearances from the National Board for Wildlife and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

Approved by the Union cabinet in December 2014, the Rs 1,500 crore underground physics laboratory is way behind its original schedule as it would take minimum five to eight years for the INO to be completed, once the construction starts.

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