Port Wings Editorial, Jan 14, 2015:
By giving its nod for the India-based Neutrino Observatory Project in Tamil Nadu, the Government of India has opened Pandora’s Box.
The Neutrino research, which has immense physics potential, will have implications for astrophysics, phenomenology and particle physics. Neutrinos hold the key to several fundamental questions on the origin of the Universe and the energy production in stars. Neutrinos can be used for tomography of the earth and human body also and they are less hazardous than X-rays. Neutrinos may tell us more about dark energy and dark matter and ultimately help us exploit them as the earth is getting depleted of its material and energy sources.
The laboratory is coming up deep inside the mountains in Idukki-Theni districts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu for neutrino research. According to information available on public domain, the lab has to be located in deep underground with walls and roof of at least 1000 meter thickness for filtering the cosmic rays. There will be a big laboratory of 3432 sq meters in area and 32.5 meters in height and three smaller ones of 1600 sq m and 10 m high. The length of the tunnels will be 2491 meters and its portal of entry is in Theni district of TN. The projected life of the lab is 120 years. This mega science project of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) costing Rs 1,300 crores was approved for XIth five year plan.
According to anti-lab activists, INO site selection was not transparent. There are several issues concerning the safety of the people and the Eco-system which need to be discussed and resolved. First and foremost is the violation of Federal principles.
According to DAE, the tunnel will end at the Kerala border and the laboratories (caverns) will be in Tamil Nadu. From the sketch and descriptions given in the project documents, 700 meters of the tunnel and the main cavern and the two smaller ones will be under Kerala. Sanction has been obtained from the Government of Tamil Nadu. However, Kerala was not even been informed about the plan.
Since even a hairline crack in the wall (one km wide) or the roof can topple the detector, digging of wells or development projects like irrigation tunnels, mining etc. will have to be banned within a kilometer from the laboratory cave.
In other words, the activities in and around the project site will be neutralized and people living in and around the lab area has to obey the diktat of the project heads despite accepting the ecological disaster due to the project.
Well, India needs to improve its image on all available fronts, from economic to scientific and astrophysics to astronomy.
The government should prioritize its importance in executing science-related research projects, which are mainly to give the Indian scientists an international podium. However, it should not be overtaken when nutrients in question.