From September 1, emission of electromagnetic radiations from mobile phone towers will reduce to 1/10th of the existing 4.2 watts per sq meter for base transmitting stations (BTS) operating in 900 MHz band. Under new norms, it will be reduced to 0.42 watts per sq meter.
Following recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) comprising officials of the department of telecommunications (DoT), Indian Council of Medical Research, department of biotechnology and ministry of environment and forest, the DoT has directed mobile phone operators to "adjust their networks to comply with new norms".
But telecom service providers aren't happy. "We have no hesitation in complying with new norms as most of our base stations are operating much below the prescribed limit, even below the new norms suggested by IMC," said Rajan S Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India.
"However, there is no basis for reducing it to 1/10th level. In future, someone may question why it should not be 1/100th level," he added.
Currently, the DoT has implemented ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection Board, which is an affiliate of the WHO) standards. "Our norms are much below the WHO norms," said R Chandrasekhar, secretary, DoT.
"The issue of health is continuously under review. The government has set up a committee under the department of science and technology (DST) to look into these issues," he added.
He also said there is still no scientific study to prove that anyone has got any health problem due to mobile phone towers in India.
Before installation, tower companies have to take two type of clearances — one from DoT for electromagnetic radiation-related norms and from BTS towers and secondly from the state government and civic authorities concerned.
After installation, the companies issue self-certificates which are verified by DoT through a random survey.
A violation of emission norms carries a hefty penalty of Rs. 5 lakh, and if the violation continues, the particular BTS is closed.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) did not respond to the repeated emails and phone calls made by HT asking what Trai is doing to stop towers being set up without permission of local authorities.