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Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
Monday, 04 June 2018 15:00

Revival of the Neutrino Project Lacks Transparency

THE latest decision by the Modi government to once again superimpose the Neutrino project on the people of Tamil Nadu-Kerala border in an arbitrary manner flouting even the existing environmental regulations needs to be resisted by all concerned sections with a pro-people and pro-nature perspective on science and development. The superimposition of the project was stayed by the Madras High Court in March 2015 for lack of mandatory environmental clearance and the Chennai South Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal last year had withdrawn the provisional environmental sanction already granted to the project. Those well-placed corporate –technocratic lobby in DST and DAE who are steamrolling the project from Delhi with the backing of immense funds should disclose the fact whether they have done even the mandatory consultation with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in this regard.

Concerns were already raised that the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) which is envisaged as one of the biggest particle research projects in India will become an appendage of the notorious Fermi Lab of USA which will be the “host laboratory” while the former will remain only as the “neutrino source” and mere “detector”. American Fermi Lab is notorious for building up clandestine and opaque structures and information barriers that ultimately serve the political needs of US imperialism. There is no guarantee for India, the sole bearer of the whole cost of this multi-country initiative, getting the essential scientific details associated with the research program from American Fermi Lab. At a time when India lacks experienced particle physicists capable of leading the scientific and technological expertise needed for running the INO, the project will not be in India’s national interest and India will be at the receiving end. In this regard, especially in view of Modi’s abject servility to US imperialism and growing dependence on American nuclear establishment, this arbitrary decision is definitely anti-national.

According to estimates, about 8 hundred thousand tons of hard rock is to be removed for the underground construction and its removal coupled with the pollution arising from dust and other wastes are gruesome indeed! The blasting of rock, even if controlled will result in ground vibrations adversely affecting the stability of Idukki Dam which is at an aerial distance of just 36 km and Mullaperiyar Dam which is at an aerial distance of 49 km. With an array of 14 big and small dams and being situated in a seismic belt, the environmental impact in Idukki district and on the entire mountain range of such an underground blasting of hard rock digging out 800,000 tons of material will be of incalculable proportions. Regarding the apprehensions such as radio-active contamination of land and water, ecological pollution arising from the use of explosives, depletion of ground water, loss of agricultural land and habitat, threats to dams in Kerala and flora and fauna in the region, the so called scientific experts have only the usual stereo-typed answers concerns. According to preliminary estimates, if the project materializes, at least 5 million people inhabiting six districts across Tamil Nadu and Kerala will have to bear a number of consequences.

Further, in the case of an industrial project, provisions may be there for employment of people suffering from displacement and loss of habitat. Since such provisions are not there in the case of a research project like INO, the affected people will not be getting any benefits like employment or rehabilitation. Instead of taking the people into confidence, sharing the details with them in a transparent manner and making an objective environment-social impact assessment study with people’s participation, the same bureaucratic arrogance visible as usual in similar other projects is displayed in the case of INO also. Therefore, all progressive and democratic forces having a pro-people and pro-nature approach to science and development should join with the struggling people and concerned sections to resolve the grave questions arising from INO project by compelling the authorities to reconsider the whole issue from a people-cantered perspective as against the usual bureaucratic/techno-centric attitude. Therefore, the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala should waste no time to rise up and defeat the vested interests who will manipulate public opinion in their favour utilizing the bogey of science and development.

PJ James

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