Madurai | The Madras High Court today restrained the Centre from proceeding further with the Rs 1,500 crore India-based Nutrino Observatory Project proposed in Theni district till a clearance by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
A bench here comprising justices S Tamilvanan and V S Ravi passed the interim order on a PIL by MDMK leader Vaiko, who sought prohibiting the government from setting up the project claiming it would harm lives of thousands of people and agricultural produce besides endangering nearby dams.
The bench had on March 6 reserved its order on the interim prayer of Vaiko to stop the work on the project, a multi- institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 m for non-accelerator-based high energy and nuclear physics research in the country.
Allowing the interim prayer, the bench restrained the secretaries of Ministries of Environment and Forest and Science and Technology, Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and the Institute of Mathematical Science from proceeding with the project coming up in Pottipuram village till clearance by TNPCB.
Vaiko has opposed the project saying besides depletion of ground water, there was a possibility of INO causing radioactive contamination also and maintained in many places such facilities were located in used mines and ocean beds.
As it involved removal of eight lakh tonnes of rocks, using explosives, the dams in the surrounding areas, including the Idukki dam in neighbouring Kerala, could get affected, he submitted. He also contended that INO would be part of US Fermilab project and its benefit would not come to India in full.
However, countering Vaiko’s claims, the Centre has said it would not cause any radiation and instead give a major boost to fundamental research in various fields of basic science. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in its counter on behalf of the Centre has maintained INO would not cause contamination or radiation.
The project was of national interest and importance and should not be bogged down by needless litigation, it said. Additional Solicitor General G R Swaminathan had said during the previous hearing that there was no foreign element involved in the project as the name itself suggested.
He had denied that the site had been selected in a biased manner and said it was decided after several deliberations as the place was an ideal locality being in a rain shadow region. The environment clearance had been given after environment impact study.