Neutrino threat to Nilgiri wildlife

Relocate observatory site near Madurai: environment ministry

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Tuesday 15 December 2009

THE Union environment ministry, on November 20, rejected the proposal to construct a neutrino observatory at Singara in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. Neutrinos are electrically neutral elementary particles that make up the universe but are not well understood. The department of atomic energy had proposed an underground observatory in the biosphere.

The minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, in a letter to the chairman of atomic energy commission, Anil Kakodkar, cited a report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority as the reason for rejecting the proposal. The report said the project is close to the Mudumalai and Bandipur tiger reserves (see Neutrino in elephants way, Down To Earth, September 15, 2008).

In his letter, the minister suggested an alternative site close to Suruliyar falls near Madurai. Suruliyar does not have any large mammals and only a small part of it is in the reserve forest.The site also meets the requirements for studying neutrinos, said M Mohanraj, project coordinator with World Wide Fund for Nature. D Indumati, member of the project team and a professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai disagreed. Suruliyar does have hard charnokite rock suitable for neutrino study but unlike Singara we do not have enough data on whether the formation is stable and safe, she said while adding the site is being evaluated.

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