The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project has got a fresh lease of life with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) taking it up as a special case and granting it environmental clearance to set up the lab in Bodi West hills.
While granting EC, the committee stipulated specific conditions, of which two are key for the project to take off.
- One is the consent to establish and operate to be obtained from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). In the past, INO project proponents had complained that the TNPCB had been sitting on the file for years without taking any action when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister (2011-16). Also, the INO team has to obtain the necessary forest and National Board for Wild Life clearances as per law. The Mathikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district, Kerala, is situated within five km from the project site.
- When the project was considered by the Tamil Nadu State Expert Appraisal Committee in November 2017 (after Jayalalithaa’s death), it said that the proposed site forms part of the catchment area of various streams that contribute to the Vaigai watershed.
- Therefore, Tamil Nadu was of the opinion that the proposal could not be appraised under category B of item 8(a) ‘Building and construction projects of the Schedule to the EIA notification 2006’, as it involved many technical features other than mere construction. The SEAC also said the project should be appropriately handled by the Centre. Incidentally, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam represents the Bodi Assembly constituency.
- Considering the national importance of the proposal, the MoEF decided to take the proposal at the Central level as a special case — a category 8(a) project — and granted environmental clearance with 17 conditions.
Mandates of the expert committee
- The Expert Appraisal Committee Infra 2 of the Ministry of Environment and Forests deals with projects related to all ship breaking yard including ship breaking unit, airport, common hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities, ports and harbours, aerial ropeways, Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP), common municipal solid waste management facility, building/construction projects, townships and area development projects.