The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal suspended the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted to the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) that was to come up in Theni and asked the project proponent to make a fresh application.During the arguments, the Tribunal was informed that the Madhikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district of Kerala was just about 4.9 km from the proposed project site and the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border was just a kilometre away, making it a Category ‘A’ project.INO officials now say they will verify the claims of the activists and, if indeed the distance is less than 5 km, make an application for approval of the wildlife board. In any case, the project, which is already running late by about five years, is likely to be delayed further. “This is a serious setback. We are yet to see the NGT order but the news has come to us. The morale of the team is down,” said Naba K Mondal, project director of INO till a few weeks back.“If indeed we have to go through the clearance process all over again, it could take almost two years. This would lead to immense delay and our competition in other parts of the world would gain an advantage over us. The international scientific community is not going to take us seriously,” Mondal said. This is not the first time the project has faced disruption because of environmental regulations.It was originally meant to be located near Mudumalai national park, north of Ooty. But that area was later declared a tiger reserve and the project had to be shifted to its present location. The observatory, to be built about 1.5 km below the earth’s surface, aims to detect and study neutrinos that are the second most abundant particles in the universe after photons, or light particles. Neutrinos — not to be confused with neutrons — are neutral particles produced during natural radioactive decays and in all kinds of nuclear reactions.