This refers to the article, “A great opportunity for Indian science” (Sept. 24). There can be no second thoughts on the importance of neutrino research. But why choose an environmentally sensitive spot to set up the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO)? Already, Masinagudi has become the cancer of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (because of uncontrolled tourism). The Pykara power project may be supplying power to the grid. But the workers who came as part of the project became permanent settlers, adding to the population of Masinagudi. Now, another big project like INO will bring more visitors, machinery, dust, noise, vehicles, and carbon footprint to a core forest area.

C.R. Jayaprakash,

Coimbatore

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Prof. Rajasekaran argues forcefully for the INO ignoring the perils it can pose to the sensitive and biodiversity-rich Nilgiris. The project will adversely affect the ecosystem of the area which protects over a dozen endangered species and forms part of two tiger reserves. The disturbance generated by the project will inflict incalculable harm on wildlife. Even an environment impact assessment can turn out to be faulty, unless it takes into account the migration routes of fauna (especially elephants), the impact of new roads to the site, the noise and the dust generated and the pressure of a migrant working force on the fragile ecosystem. We will stand to lose not just wildlife, but our water security, biodiversity and invaluable natural heritage as well.

Abhiram G. Sankar,

Attingal

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Many scientists and universities have come together to promote the INO believing that neutrinos hold the key to several important and fundamental questions on the origin of the universe and energy production in stars. Although there are many who unfairly project conservationists’ concern as being ‘anti-progress,’ ‘anti-national’ or ‘anti-development,’ every conservationist I have met is keen that the INO project should be implemented. They are quick to acknowledge that this would be a great step for our country as well as for the entire scientific world. Their only question is should it be located here? Aren’t our forests and wildlife as much a matter of national pride as our scientific achievements? A difficult question indeed. Are we not taking far too many irreversible steps backward for this one step forward?

A.K. Shahinsha,

Dharapuram

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While we commend the enthusiasm shown by the scientists to further our understanding of neutrinos, it is a matter of concern that the proposed site will be right adjacent to the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and its buffer zone. Mudumalai is perhaps the only reserve forest area which has actually shown an increase in tiger population in India in the recent census. Several resorts have been served notices to relocate. Several people living in vulnerable zones have been asked to leave. Why should we consider a huge human intervention in this region?

One shudders to think of the plan to dig a 2-km-long tunnel right into the bedrock. If geological factors are critical and that the neutrino site must be in the Nilgiris, why not consider the northern ridge next to Kodanad facing the Moyar valley? It is away from the contiguous belt of forests that connects Mudumalai to Mukurthi and the Silent Valley National Park. A still better location could be the Kotagiri-Mettupalayam road. A substantial section of this stretch is covered with coffee plantations. Additional human intrusion here may not come at a huge ecological cost.

K. Anand,

Bangalore