Loom­ing dan­ger

Down to Earth - - LETTERS -

The en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance to the In­dia-based Neu­trino Ob­ser­va­tory (INO) pro­ject at Bodi West Hills near Pot­tipu­ram in Tamil Nadu is alarm­ing due to the en­vi­ron­men­tal da­m­age it may in­duce to the rich bio­di­ver­sity of the Western Ghats. The ear­lier iden­ti­fied sites for INO at Dar­jeel­ing and in Sin­gara in­side the Mudu­malai wildlife sanc­tu­ary were dropped due to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns. The present site be­neath the Mathiket­tan Shola Na­tional Park also poses a se­vere threat to the ecol­ogy of the area, but with much more sever­ity. The Western Ghats are more eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive. They are a UNESCO World Her­itage Site and one of the eight hottest hot spots of bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity in the world. It is true that the study of neu­tri­nos is very im­por­tant in go­ing be­yond the stan­dard model of par­ti­cle physics. In­di­ans were pi­o­neers in neu­trino physics and many break­throughs were made in the neu­trino ob­ser­va­tion fa­cil­ity at the Ko­lar gold fields in 1960s. Later, many ob­ser­va­to­ries from around the world gave much more in­ter­est­ing de­tails about the con­spic­u­ous na­ture of neu­trino. The pro­posed INO will be a state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity that may pro­vide new in­sights. How­ever, the Mathiket­tan

Shola Na­tional Park is strictly re­served for the bet­ter­ment of the wildlife and bio­di­ver­sity, and where ac­tiv­i­ties like forestry, poaching and hunt­ing are pro­hib­ited. Be­sides tigers, pan­thers, fly­ing squir­rels, it houses sev­eral rare species of medic­i­nal plants and is the only place where some of the unique rhodo­den­drons are seen. The cav­ern of the ob­ser­va­tory would be 1.5 km-long and the equip­ments will be housed at a big­ger space of 26-30 m. It re­quires con­tin­u­ous blast­ing for years to make such a cav­ern and 600,000 cu­bic me­tres of rock will have to be re­moved. Be­sides, the pro­posed ob­ser­va­tory is very near to Ker­ala's most im­por­tant dams and hy­del projects. Wild an­i­mals may en­ter the nearby res­i­den­tial ar­eas due to the blast­ing of rocks and the rare plants may van­ish. Sev­eral seis­mic in­ci­dents have also been re­ported in this area. There is also a pos­si­bil­ity of roof col­lapse which may da­m­age the struc­ture of the hill and re­sult in a gap in the Ghats which will da­m­age the whole ecosys­tem of Idukki and ad­join­ing ar­eas. This gap could also af­fect the weather pat­tern of Idukki and make it warmer. These de­tails are based on the per­sonal vis­its to the area and the stud­ies con­ducted there­after.


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