National Board for Wildlife’s nod needed, says green panel
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday ordered a stay on the implementation of the Neutrino project in Theni district, pending approval from the National Board for Wildlife.
Observing that the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) was set to come up in an ecologically sensitive area of the Western Ghats, a bench headed by NGT judicial member Justice Raghuvendra S. Rathore said, “We direct that the project should not be implemented until and unless approval from the National Board for Wildlife is received, since the project site is [situated] within the eco-sensitive zone of the national park in Kerala.”
The NGT gave the directions while delivering a judgment on a plea that challenged the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research for the construction of the INO.
The environmental clearance granted to the INO project had stated that it was a proposal that entailed the construction of an underground laboratory for experiments in the “field of neutrino physics”.
Following the orders issued by the NGT’s Southern Bench in 2017, the project proponent had applied for a fresh EC before the Tamil Nadu State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
The State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), in November 2017, had observed that because the Western Ghats was a “treasure trove of biological diversity” and formed a part of the catchment area supporting the livelihood of various communities, the project could not be appraised under Section 8 (a), that is, “Building and Construction Project”.
Following the SEAC report, the proposal was placed before the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and its Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) as a project of “national importance”.
The EAC had sought a detailed geo-technical investigation report on the study “carried out for locating underground laboratory of INO on Pottipuram site”.
Observing that the reports submitted by the Committees were under the Ministry’s consideration, the green panel said,
“The specific or general condition or recommendation made by the Committees or Expert Groups will be mandatorily made applicable in the current project of INO also.”