Hoping Hawaii’s loss turns into India’s gain, the Ministry of Science and Technology has approached the Defence Ministry for according clearance to a major international telescope project which it thinks could come up in Ladakh at a site near the Line of Actual Control.
After protests in Hawaii in the US against the proposed Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) project, the largest to be built, alternative sites are being explored which include Hanle in Ladakh.
“Since the site is not very far from the Line of Actual Control, we have approached the Ministry of Defence in this regard. The region is also known to be strategically sensitive,” said a scientist involved in the project.
Sources said the Ministry of Home Affairs too has been approached in this regard as the project involves scientists from different countries. Since the project would take around 10 years to be completed, the process for obtaining clearances has been started, they said, adding steps are still on to set it up at Mauna Kea in Hawaii as it is the “ideal” site.
“We are keeping ourselves ready in case the project comes to Hanle,” the scientist added.
The project, aimed at exploring the universe, was to come up in Hawaii, but protests by the indigenous population had it stalled. The Supreme Court of Hawaii too recently revoked the permission for construction, which was to start in 2015, on procedural grounds.
Given the importance of the project, in terms of finance and scientific value, the project partners are also looking at alternative sites, both in the northern and southern hemispheres. These include sites in Chile, Hanle in Ladakh and others which are all being evaluated for technical and logistical suitability.
India is a 10 per cent partner in the TMT project. The other partners include the US, China, Japan and Canada. On the Indian side, the project is being handled by the Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Atomic Energy.