"Tiger or Science ? An ambitious scientific project is scheduled to come up in the heart of tiger territory in the Mudumalai Sanctuary", read the article in The Hindu dated June 29th, 2008.
The report says: A top level scientific project, the India-based Neutrino Observatory, is scheduled to be built in Singara, in the Mudumalai Sanctuary. That is, in the home of the tiger, the leopard and the elephant, as also the gray langur, the bonnet macaque, the gaur, the sambhar deer, the chital, the Indian giant squirel, the birds, the reptiles and the innumerable other species of flora and fauna that inhabit it. Described as Abdul Kalam's dream, the plan is to build an undeground observatory. The project needs 1 lakh tons of iron initially, 35,000 tons of cement, steel, copper aluminium and other building materials which need to be brought from Mysore in 20 ton trucks. Also, new roads through the forest will have to be built. Scientists assure that environmental damage would be contained. Conservationists who questioned the location of the project in the tiger reserve were told that it was to be built on patta land.
Some scientists involved in the project have given replies to the above article.
Mudumalai Sanctuary, lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hillas and is on the Tamil Nadu - Karnataka - Kerala border. The increased traffic on the Ooty to Mysore road has already taken it toll. Animals have become the victims of speeding trucks, buses, jeeps and cars as the road falls in the path to the waterholes.
While this looks like one of those hi-funda projects that will be spoken about as on par with the best in the world, help in scientific advancement and the like, it is not clear how the people concerned came up with the location and the rationality behind it.
First of all, what is the objective - build something or destroy something ? and at what cost. It is well known the forest area in India is fast dwindling and man-animal conflicts are increasing every day. At this rate, is it a rational to play with the forests that exist today. Also, forests such as the one where the Mudumalai sanctuary takes centuries to build. Are we capable of bringing one back with all the flora and fauna, in case of damage? If so, what is the guarantee ? They say damage will be minimal - How much is minimal and negligible - can you give data ? Is not there other land available in India where this project can be situated without causing damage to the environment ? The question is not again about what people of the place want or do not want - it is a question about preserving our forests, about thinking and planning for the future. A short-sighted decision may be disastrous for all concerned.
A search on related websites does not give any report on environmental impact that is expected and the measures that will be taken to contain it. Nor does it have any pointers to other such projects implemented in the past and the environmental impact thereof.
So, will it be science or the tiger at Mudumalai, the home of the tiger ?
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