Saturday, September 28, 2013

BMC gives top-floor residents a bigger say

BMC gives top-floor residents a bigger say
Absence of a comprehensive policy on the issue until now has resulted in hundreds of illegal towers
Revised rules require telecom companies to also seek permission for mobile towers from people living on top floor.

Telecom operators will now have to obtain the consent of residents living on the top floor to install mobile towers atop their buildings, civic authorities said on Tuesday.

The new rule is among some key changes made by the BMC to its mobile tower policy that was announced last month. The changes were made to incorporate guidelines issued by the central government's Department of Telecom (DoT) recently.

Among other things, they require the BMC to form panels to address residents' complaints against illegal mobile towers and their concerns over radiation exposure. Citizens will be among the committee members.

Mobile towers atop residential buildings have been a hot button issue in the city for the past three years. While their installation helps housing societies earn substantial revenue, citizens and activists complain that they pose health risks and also put a strain on buildings' structural strength.

Absence of a comprehensive civic policy on the issue until now resulted in hundreds of illegal towers coming up across Mumbai. A recent BMC survey revealed that of the 4,779 cell towers in the city, 3,620 are illegal.

Why their vote matters

A senior BMC official said that henceforth telecom operators would have to mandatorily seek permission from people living on the top floor, apart from obtaining clearances from other stakeholders. "Residents of upper floors are most affected by installation of cell towers, and hence their opinion is important," the official said.

The original cell tower policy required telecom companies to secure permission from 70 per cent of the occupants in a building. There was no special mention of top-floor residents. The revised policy says that the figure of 70 per cent should also include the vote of this group.

Another civic official said that other changes suggested by the DoT would also be incorporated in the BMC's policy within a week.

"To set up a cell phone tower on a building, telecom operators will have to obtain a no-objection certificate from its owner or person/s with rooftop rights," the DoT guidelines say.

Meanwhile, citizens and corporators want the civic authority to put up a list of legal and illegal cell towers on its website.

"This will help us identify unauthorised structures atop buildings. Many residents are not aware if the tower on their rooftop is legal," said BJP corporator Vinod Shelar, who has been leading a public campaign against illegal towers.

Shelar said that the new DoT guidelines also require the BMC to set up panels to handle citizens' grievances on the issue. "There should be no delay in forming such committees, which will comprise officials and residents," he said.


BMC's policy, enforced last month, has limited the number of mobile towers per building to two. It has banned towers in and around schools, colleges and hospitals. Telecom firms will have to obtain the consent of building owners and 70 per cent of the residents to install a tower atop a residential complex. The majority verdict should also include the vote of residents living on the top floor.


There are 4,779 mobile phone towers in the city. Of these, 3,620 are illegal. Borivali has the highest number of such structures: 342. Malabar Hill and Bandra (W) have 333 and 300 illegal cell towers, respectively.

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