The headquarters of the Rs.1,200-crore India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project, coming up in the Western Ghats, will be set up in Madurai.

While the country's first-ever underground neutrino observatory will be set up in Theni district, it was decided to have the headquarters in Madurai to provide facilities for scientists, administrative operations and for residential quarters.

A 12-member INO technical committee comprising scientists and engineers from different collaborating institutions is visiting Madurai on October 5 and 6 to finalise the detailed project report for the observatory, according to T. Chinnaraj Joseph Jaikumar, chairperson, INO-Madurai Cell.

“The project was earlier estimated to cost Rs.900 crore. But, it is now estimated at Rs.1,200 crore,” he said.

He told The Hindu on Sunday that a request was being made to the State government/district administration to allot suitable land in Madurai for the headquarters.

“We are meeting Madurai District Collector C. Kamaraj soon to make a formal request for land. The technical committee will discuss the matter here and the scientists are also visiting the actual observatory site at Pottipuram [West Bodi Hills] in Theni district,” Dr. Jaikumar said.

The technical committee meeting will be held at American College here. He said the land requirement will be a minimum of 30 acres.

While the Department of Atomic Energy will fund this project, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, along with nearly 25 leading research institutes/universities in the country, is steering the project by involving scientists and engineers.

Naba K. Mondal, Chief Spokesperson of INO Project, and G. Rajasekaran of Institute of Mathematical Sciences are among those attending the meeting here on Tuesday. The next day, the committee members will visit the site in Theni.

The INO Project is an underground facility with a huge detector and two man-made caves amidst a rock mass to study the properties of neutrinos through experiments and understand the various processes in the universe. Once started, this project is expected to take five years for execution.

Steps for getting various mandatory clearances for the proposed project have been taken up.

“Once the threadbare discussion is completed by the technical committee, it will go to the Union Cabinet for clearance,” Dr. Jaikumar, who is the American College Principal, said.