Shastry V. Mallady

Farmers, elected representatives, officials invited

Progress in first round of talks held on Monday

MADURAI: Scientists involved in the setting up of a Rs.900-crore underground neutrino observatory in Theni district have kick-started the process of allaying the “radiation fears” among local people and environmentalists. They claimed progress in the first round of talks held on Monday.

The Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology are funding the ambitious India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO). It will be housed underground in the mountains of Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu amidst dense rocks. A site on West Bodi Hills near Pottipuram in the district has been found suitable by geologists and scientists.

At an awareness meeting held at Theni on Monday in the presence of the District Collector/forest officials, doubts of local people about the proposed project were cleared. Farmers, villagers, elected representatives, officials and other groups had been invited for the meeting.

“Convincing the people is important for us and we are for addressing their grievances. All the misconceptions about this observatory will be cleared,” Naba K. Mondal, Spokesperson, INO and Senior Professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, said here on Tuesday.

The process of obtaining statutory clearances from the Central and State governments as well as efforts to involve local people and enlist their support would be taken up simultaneously, he said.

Scientists from premier research institutes and universities will be able to study the properties of neutrinos. Mr. Mondal said the support of the American College in Madurai has been sought to disseminate correct information among people and address their concerns on this project.

A presentation about the project has already been made to Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh three months ago.

“A radiation-free environment can be created only if the detector/control system is shielded by rock mass. Hence, this observatory is coming up underground inside the mountains,” Mr. Mondal said.

He said there was no need to fell trees at the proposed site as the laboratory would be under the mountains and there would be no displacement of people. All guidelines of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board would be followed.

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