Cellular towers in residential areas
There has been a huge controversy going on regarding cellular towers erected near residential areas, schools and hospitals. There is nothing against mobile companies and we should appreciate the development in this sector. But, the major concern has been that cellular towers are required for the functioning of mobile phones. In Delhi, there are around 5,656 mobile towers, of which 2,656 are illegal. East Delhi has 1,470 cellphone towers, of which 588 are illegal. The South Delhi corporation has 2,834 mobile towers, of which 1,543 are illegal. In some cases, the towers have been constructed on unauthorised buildings. There are certain rules and regulations that need to be followed for setting up a cellular tower in any locality. The big question is whether the mobile companies are following the norms or not?
Norms for setting up mobile towers in Delhi and other areas
- Before installation of tower, the licensee company should obtain clearance from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to make sure that there are no aviation hazards, no interference with other wireless users, and no obstruction to any other microwave links existing in the area.
- Telecom companies have to get the requisite permission from the concerned local authorities/ municipal corporation before installation of tower.
- There should not be any nearby buildings in front of the tower antenna with height comparable to the lowest antenna at a distance as specified.
- Operators should also check the emission level so that it does not cover areas with public exposure.
- Specific absorption rate (SAR) limit of 1.6watt/Kg (on an average, over 1 gm of tissue) was implemented from September 1, 2012.
- It is also specified that the pole mounted antenna height should be 5 metre above ground or road level on flyovers.
- There should not be any residential place or office in front of the antenna at a height comparable to the antenna in the exclusion zone.
- Last but not the least, there are no restriction for installation of tower on or near specific buildings like hospitals, schools, playground etc. as new strict standards based on precautionary principles apply equally to all locations with human presence.
Hazards associated with mobile towers
Experts say that continuous exposure to a cell tower located within 50 m of your home or office is like being in a microwave oven for the entire day. It carries the same cancer risk as in the cases of living in localities surrounded by DDT, chloroform, lead, and petrol exhaust. Many international studies have shown that people living within 1,300 feet of mobile towers had three times the normal cancer risk.
Another study revealed that while cancer is the extreme case, people living near the mobile towers face other disorders like extreme fatigue, headaches, sleep disorders, memory loss, depression, hearing loss, joint pains, skin problems, cardiovascular problems, among others. The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also reported that cellphone handsets’ and towers’ radiations are possibly carcinogenic to humans and may cause a type of brain cancer or glioma. Cell towers are more dangerous than the mobile handsets because they generate greater-intensity radiation 24 hours.