The same population of elephants is in trouble in the Tamil Nadu segment of its territory also. See (two years old but still relevent) as well as the recent account from Priya Davidar below.Please send an email to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu - and ccs to these addresses:

To: Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu -,,,,,,,,,

A personal email is best no matter how short. Or else you can copy and paste our model email or else send an email about both this issue and the Kerala issue at


The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) which is a 1000+ strong community of tropical biologists worldwide have sponsored a resolution against INO

Roessing, K. 2006. Unpublished M. Sc. thesis, Pondicherry University, India.

New Internationalist Story about the India Based Neutrino Observatory

Crouching Tiger Hidden Scientist

India Based Neutrino Observatory and 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 from an estimated 200,000 in the early 1900’s (Chadwick 1991) to about 35000–50000 in the 2000’s (Focus 2005), a decline of 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. Habitat fragmentation leads to the isolation of populations, and for wide-ranging animals, it may result in several isolated populations that are too small to be viable. Furthermore, inbreeding depression can exacerbate loss of genetic viability due to small population size, 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. Migration paths are passed on genetically, and are easily adaptable to change. 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 regions.

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 Indian subcontinent has the largest population of Asian elephant with population estimates ranging from 26,000 to 31,000, but the data collection methods are crude making these numbers suspect. In South India, the continuous elephant range extending from the Brahmagiri Hills, south through the Nilgiri Hills, and east through the Eastern Ghats is one of 14 out of Asia’s 59 known elephant ranges containing wildland area large enough to support substantial elephant populations. This 12,000 sq. km area, spanning three states (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala) is thought to house 6,300 elephants, the largest remaining population of Asian elephants in the world. The contiguity of the region’s forest habitat is not maintained by the patchwork of protected areas, and the range has become highly fragmented. The Nagarhole, Bandipur, Wynaad, and Mudumalai protected areas and the adjacent Nilgiri North Division have been identified as one of the four most important zones within this range 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 Segur Plateau has already been subjected to large scale degradation over the last two decades, and it's carrying capacity is much reduced. A large development project – the Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydro Electric Project (PUSHEP) came up in the 1990's, causing a spurt in infrastructure and human population, and facilitated the growth of a massive, indiscriminate tourism industry. It is now under tremendous pressure from rapidly expanding human settlements, unregulated tourism, and intensive pressure on the forests caused by cattle grazing and extraction of fuel-wood. This pressure will be further augmented with the implementation of the INO project.

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 tunnelling, 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 our country, 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.

Of course, the INO is not the only threat to this population of elephants in Tamil Nadu. There is the rampant cattle grazing throughout the Mudumalai, Bandipur, Nagarhole and Wynaad park complex and surrounding reserve forests. What's worse, is that these many 1000's of cattle are grazed every day in the parks, and not for the production of dairy or meat on account of the nutritional deficiencies of the "scrub jungles," but for their dung, which is used as fertilizer for 'organic coffee' plantations in Kerala. The combination of heavy grazing and near total removal of the cattle-dung results in a serious deficit in local biodiversity advancement.

Also important is that elephant herds in this area are already struggling to recover from two decades of very severe ivory-poaching which took out most of the large male tuskers and that poaching still continues. This has resulted in notable size reductions in bull elephants and has damaged herd social structures such that this regions elephants have already undergone a genetic bottleneck. This has substantially reduced the effective population size of elephants.

The arguments of the INO proponents are immature and very poorly developed and demonstrate a surprising level of environmental illiteracy for such a grand scheme.
However faulty, the EIA commissioned by INO itself, highlighted several of the damages that are likely to be caused to the habitat, the wildlife and migratory routes of elephants due to the implementation of this project.

Chadwick, D.H. 1991. Elephants - out of time, out of space. Natl. Geog. May:14.

Desai, A., Davidar, P., Puyravaud, J. P., Mohanraj, N. Srinivasan, G., Thekaekara, T. 2008. Environmental Concerns around the proposed site for the India-based Neutrino observatory. NBR Alliance report.

Focus 2005. Species Spotlight - Asian elephant. Focus (World Wildlife Fund) 27/2:2.