Norms go for a toss in city
Chittaranjan Tembhekar | TNN
Mumbai: Within the telecom industry there are instructions to cell tower maintenance wings and agencies that there should not be more than two to three antennae on a cell tower and no two antennae should face the same direction.But it seems these instructions are being overruled in the city,with minimum 50% towers bearing more than three antennae and some facing the same direction.
As per another directive to engineers involved in cell tower installation,no building should exist horizontally or laterally within a 100-metre periphery of the antenna as laterally radiation is stronger and can cause heavy damage to the human body than vertical or slanting radiation.Telecom industry sources said with the 450 milliwatt per sq power allotted for each tower,it can now have only three antennae with 150 milliwatt each.But there are over 50% towers which are close to such buildings.
According to IIT professor Girish Kumar even the limit of 450 milliwatt per sq radiation level for a cell tower bearing three antennae can be very damaging.He said laterally the building should be minimum 300 metres from an antenna and below the antenna,human existence can be 50 to 100 metres.He expressed concern over the growing number of antennae and their reducing distances from human habitation.
But R K Bhatnagar,advisor to the Department of Telecommunication (DoT),and Rajan Mathew, directorgeneral of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI),said there were no guidelines of three
antennae or a 100-metre periphery within the industry.There can be a maximum 12 antennae on each tower but they should not face in the same direction and should be at a height so that no building comes laterally close.A tower with 12 antennae should be laterally 75 metres away from the buildings, Bhatnagar said.If two to three antennae face in different directions on a tower located at a height,the towers distance from the building can be even 25 metres,he added.
He said it has not been established or proved that the wattage limit such as 450 mw per sq metres for each cell tower was damaging to human health. This month DoT will hold a meeting of doctors,scientists and engineers to form a committee which will decide the line and scope of study of impact of radiation on human health.After a case study,we will be able to decide wattage for each antenna and cell tower and safe distances from human habitations, he said.
According to Dr K S Parthasarathy,former secretary,Atomic Energy Regulatory Board,the government and telecom industry have adopted onetenth of the limit prescribed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP),whose guidelines are accepted by most nations. DoT threatens action
Telecom operators have been warned to keep radiation from their cell phone towers within the prescribed limit. If the cell tower companies dont rectify the levels,they will be removed after a month as per legal procedure.The department can also cancel the operators licences if complaints grow and theres no rectification, a DoT official said.
Union minister of state for communications and IT Milind Deora said checks and action against faulty towers were being undertaken across the country to ensure safe surroundings for citizens.The ministry cares for consumers first and hence prescribed the safest radiation levels, he said,pointing out that even the operators were cooperating with the ministry and that was why faulty towers were substantially few.
Mumbai has 12 cellular operators with over 23,800 towers spread across Mumbai region.DoT has received over 400 complaints about the towers from across the country till date,with over 90% of them from the Mumbai region.
Around 320 complainants have paid Rs 4,000 to get each tower checked;271 towers have been tested, a DoT official said.Of the 271 checked,81 have been found to be non-compliant with radiation norms.Of these,61 are located across Mumbai region (Mumbai,Thane,Navi Mumbai,Kalyan-Dombivli ),a matter of concern for Mumbaikars.If you go by an average minimum of three to four antennae per tower,the number of defaulting antennae comes to over 200, the official said.
The Rajasthan high court recently ruled that all cell tower antennae close to schools,colleges,hospitals,jails and playgrounds should be relocated and should not exist within a 500-metre periphery of human existence.It said children,patients and inmates were more vulnerable to radiation. The threat of antennae,activists said,was more in Mumbai due to densely located highrises that have towers atop them.