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.
Abhiram G. Sankar,
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.