To Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu -
Cc to Chief Secretary to Govt. of Tamilnadu
Principal Secretary (environment and forests)
the Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India
Chief Wildlife warden
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Tamilnadu Forest Department
Dr. Indumathi, IIMSc and coordinating things here.
Dr. Murthy, IIMSc and coordinating things here.
Dr Rajashekaran, IIMSc and coordinating things here.
Dr. Naba K Mondal, INO Spokesperson
Dr. Raman Sukumar, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
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India Based Neutrino Observatory & conserving the largest wild populations of the Asian elephant
The Asian elephant once ranged widely throughout tropical and subtropical Asia, but its numbers have steadily declined over 80% within a century. The major cause of the decline has been loss and fragmentation of habitats caused by expanding settlements and changing land use patterns that has caused restriction of traditional migration routes and gene flow eventually leading to population extinction. For these reasons it is imperative that immediate efforts be focused towards protecting known key populations and creating corridors that can facilitate animal migration and gene flow.
Destruction of a corridor
leads to sustained human-elephant conflict, as the herds keep trying to use
the same path year after year. This expanding human settlement/wildland interface
has led to increased human-elephant conflicts ranging from poaching to crop-raiding
and fatal collisions along railway lines. Poaching of male elephants for tusks
has further reduced the effective population size possibly leading to further
erosion of the gene pool, with the male-female ratio is as high as 1:30 in many
Long-term conservation of elephants must include conservation of large contiguous wildlands. Elephants are a far-ranging species with large nutritional requirements, which utilize a variety of habitats including forests, shrublands/savannas, and grasslands.
The Nagarhole, Bandipur, Wynaad, and Mudumalai protected areas and the adjacent Nilgiri North Division have been identified as one of the most important zones for long-term conservation of elephants, due to its relatively intact habitat and large elephant population. These four parks and their adjoining Reserve Forests cover over 3300 sq. km of forest and support a population of 1800-2300 elephants. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve encloses this entire region. However the Sigur Plateau, on the east side of the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu state, which serves as the only link between the Eastern and Western Ghats for migrating elephants, remains largely unprotected as a buffer zone. In addition to elephants, tigers, panthers, wild dogs, gaur, hyenas, and several other large mammals also live in the forests of the Sigur plateau. The conservation of this critical elephant habitat would not only serve to protect one of the largest Asian elephant populations, but would also benefit the entire ecosystem, including other rare species.
However, this habitat is going to be affected further by the establishment of India Based Neutrino Observatory (INO) in Singara within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Singara is in a critical wildlife habitat and falls within the Sigur plateau that acts as a hub between three major wildlife habitats in the NBR - Mudumalai TR/Nagerhole TR, Coimbatore Division/Silent Valley and The Eastern Ghats (Sathyamangalam/BRT Sanctuary/Bannergatta NP), and adjacent to the site is a crucial wildlife corridor linking Mudumalai with the forests towards the North and East. This large network of protected areas is home to remnant populations of large endangered mammals, which are disappearing rapidly elsewhere.
The clearance for the INO
project was based on a completely inadequate and superficial EIA with the data
being mostly 'guesstimates' and from 'secondary sources’, therefore termed
a 'Rapid EIA'. The EIA considered only a 15 km radius around the site, manpower
projections were underestimated and the disposal of waste, noise and vibrations
caused by tunneling, potential increase in human-wildlife conflict and degradation
of forests not measured at all. The EIA is still not placed in the public domain
and had to be obtained via the Right to Information Act, despite the project
having been cleared by the Ministry of Forests and Environment. We also wish
to highlight the fact that the Neutrino Observatory is not site specific, since
it requires a site with one kilometre of rock cover on all sides. Therefore
it can be constructed in numerous other places in Tamilnadu or India with similar
conditions (Desai et al. 2008)
Scientific research is undoubtedly of vital importance in India , and we strongly support the establishment of such international projects. Our only concern is that the site has been decided upon without looking into the environmental implications and the fate of the 10 Threatened species in this region, of which four are endangered, and one critically endangered.
We wish to present our major concerns regarding the implementation INO in Singara.
1. The primary problem with the project is that the EIA is inadequate, and there has been no real measurement of the impact this is going to have on the region. The document we have attached expands on this in a more comprehensive manner.
2. Explosion of human settlements, as had happened with the Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydroelectric Project (PUSHEP) when the population tripled from 6000 in 1991 to around 18,000 in 2008.
3. This scientific project will not benefit local people, who are mostly technically unskilled. The only benefit would be short term in terms of wage labour and sale of dust by the Masinagudi panchayat.
4. The baseline requirements of 342,000 litres of water and 3 mega watts of electricity every day from a drought and resource poor region will adversely impact the local population.
5. Movement of an estimated 1,56,000 trucks through the Mudumalai and Bandipur Tiger Reserves carrying debris will endanger wildlife.