National

Appeal filed in Supreme Court against NGT verdict on neutrino project

The appeal, filed by G. Sundarrajan, alleged that the environmental clearance for the construction of the INO, “an underground laboratory in close proximity to the Western Ghats” would entail “large-scale blasting and tunnelling activities”.

The appeal, filed by G. Sundarrajan, alleged that the environmental clearance for the construction of the INO, “an underground laboratory in close proximity to the Western Ghats” would entail “large-scale blasting and tunnelling activities”.  

An appeal has been filed in the Supreme Court against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) decision to uphold the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) on March 26 to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research for the construction of the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO).

The appeal, filed by G. Sundarrajan, alleged that the environmental clearance for the construction of the INO, “an underground laboratory in close proximity to the Western Ghats” would entail “large-scale blasting and tunnelling activities”. The observatory is proposed to be set up at Pottipuram village in Theni district in Tamil Nadu.

“This proposed project could have irreparable consequences for the ecology of this eco-sensitive area,” alleged the civil appeal, filed by advocate K.V. Bharathi Upadhaya and drawn by advocates Ritwick Dutta and Sharon Mathew.

The petition has been issued with a diary number by the Supreme Court Registry and is in the defects section.

Mr. Sundarrajan, a Chennai resident whose plea in the NGT had failed, alleged that the tribunal did not pay heed to “critical issues”. His allegations included the “illegal appraisal of the Category B project by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; the lack of a geotechnical study to assess the impact of tunnelling and blasting on the ecology of the area; the contravention of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002; and the dangerous proximity of the proposed project site to identified ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats”.

He contended that the NGT disposed of his plea on November 2 by upholding the jurisdiction of the EAC to appraise the project on grounds including that it involved appraisal at the inter-State level, i.e., Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala; it needed to be appraised considering the fact that the INO site was in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats; and the INO site was at a distance of 4.9 km from the Mathikettan Shola National Park in Kerala.

The tribunal said that the Tamil Nadu State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) could not have appraised the proposed project as the study involved impact on the two States, and the MoEF had already constituted various committees/expert groups on the Western Ghats.

In fact, the SEAC had refused to appraise the project, and one of the reasons cited for that was that “only the Government of India would be in a position to muster necessary expertise to appraise the project in the frontier area of science, which would provide better acceptance from the public.”

Mr. Sundarrajan argued that despite the project being a ‘Building and Construction’ project classified as Category B under Item 8(a) of the Schedule to the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006, the MoEF justified the jurisdiction of its EAC in appraising the ‘Category B’ project as a ‘Category A’ project on the ground that it was of “national importance”. Further, the EAC had stated that this was a “special case”.

But Mr. Sundarrajan submitted that “if the EAC considered the project as a de facto Category A project, then it ought to have insisted on the submission of a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Report as well as a public hearing being conducted for the project, as is the case for all Category A projects”.

Besides, the appeal in the Supreme Court contended that “there are no provisions in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, or its parent statute, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, that allow the EAC to appraise a Category B project on the ground that it is of ‘national importance’ or because it is to be considered as a ‘special case’”.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 4:13:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/appeal-filed-in-sc-against-ngt-verdict-on-neutrino-project/article25828017.ece

Next Story