Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Monday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and advise the authorities concerned to drop the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project in the State.

Stalin recalled a memorandum that he had given to the Prime Minister on June 26, 2021 , in which a specific request was made to the Centre to drop the proposal of setting up the INO at Pottipuram village in Theni district. The request was made in the larger interest of conserving the rich wildlife and biodiversity of the region, as the project would cause irreversible damage to the fragile and sensitive ecosystem.

The site which is being proposed for the project falls within the Mathikettan – Periyar Tiger Corridor as mapped by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The Corridor has the critical function of maintaining the genetic flow, which will be destroyed due to project activities, said Stalin in a letter to the Prime Minister.

The State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Tamil Nadu, in November 2017, while processing the proposal for granting Environmental Clearance to the project, said the tunnelling work involves carrying out blasting in the hard and composite rock mass. . Further, the tunnelling work consists of excavating 600,000 cubic metres of Charnockite rock from the mountain.

The tunnel and cavern will be at a depth of 1,000 m from the top of the mountain. At a depth of 1,000 m, mountain rock would be under tremendous pressure, and the vertical stress is expected to be greater than 270 kg per sq.m. This will create problems like rock bust and roof collapse. The proposals will have to be scrutinised using Geotechnical studies for safeguards.

The SEIAA referred the matter to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The proposed project is located about 4.9 km from Mathikettan Shola National Park. The project site also falls within the Bodi Hills West Reserve Forest, in the Southern Western Ghats.

The area also forms a significant watershed and water catchment for River Sambal and Kottakudi. Small streams on the west side of Bodi hills join the Kottakudi river, which joins the Periyar river before draining into the Vaigai dam. This watershed is the lifeline of the local communities as it supports their livelihood and provides water for drinking and agricultural needs for five districts of Tamil Nadu.

Stalin said that a Ministerial delegation from the State had met Union Minister Piyush Goyal in September 2021 in this regard. They had conveyed the State’s specific stand and had requested to drop the project considering the serious repercussions that the project can cause. “I once again request you to kindly intervene in this matter and advise the authorities concerned to drop the INO project in Tamil Nadu,” Stalin said.

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