56% cell towers illegal
Fifty six per cent of the city's mobile network is illegal. The towers have been set up without mandatory clearances from Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Neelam Pandey and Nivedita Khandekar report.delhi Updated: Sep 21, 2009 23:38 IST
Fifty six per cent of the city's mobile network is illegal. The towers have been set up without mandatory clearances from Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
The Corporation has lost Rs 25.17 crore (251 million) as a result: useful money that it could have spent on a number of civic projects.
The Corporation is now compiling a status report, preliminary to demolishing the illegal towers.
"We are compiling a status report about such mobile towers and these would be demolished soon," MCD commissioner KS Mehra told HT.
The Corporation's additional commissioner (engineering) recently admitted that only 2,015 of the 4,532 cellular towers in Delhi are legal.
The revelation was made in response to a query under right to information (RTI) Act.
Cellular service providers need to obtain permission from the Corporation and also from residents' welfare associations (RWAs) of the area where a tower is to be installed. The company pays installation charges of Rs 1 lakh (100,000) to the Corporation, besides a monthly rent to the owner of the house atop which the tower is installed.
In turn, the owner is charged property tax at commercial rates -- four times higher than the regular residential tax rates.
The Corporation claims, both the companies and the house owners want to evade paying this money, so they do not keep it in the loop.
In January 2008, a meeting headed by the lieutenant governor of Delhi had reviewed the guidelines for installation of towers on grounds/ rooftops for cellular mobile phone services. Apart from mandating consultation with the RWAs concerned - as opposed to negotiating with the property owners -- installation of towers in narrow lanes was discouraged.
“As against these rules, a number of towers are installed in interior areas," said Subhash Arya, leader of the MCD house.
The Corporation also demands a certificate for structural safety from any one of the five authorised agencies to ascertain if the building can withstand the load of the tower. On average, a single mobile tower is 14 metres tall and weighs 2-3 tonnes.
Another shocking fact established after replies under series of RTI queries is that certificates issued by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, one of the five agencies identified by the Corporation, are based on the drawings of the building in question. This was corroborated by IIT-D sources.
"When a client approaches us, the head of the department of civic engineering and dean, industrial research and development (IRD), send the proposal to the 'structural group', having 8-10 faculty members at any given time. Inspecting the building drawings provided by the client, they decide if any margin is available for any additional load. (However) it is not necessary that they visit the actual site."
Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who decided 4-5 cases related to mobile service providers over the last four months said, "The replies filed by public information officers (PIOs) in various cases established that large companies were putting up towers on terraces of buildings without legal permissions."
PIOs also said IIT-Delhi did not maintain any copy of the drawings, which can be misused.