The Central government has rebutted claims that electromagnetic waves radiated from mobile towers are harmful to health and claimed that the department of telecommunications (DoT) regularly inspects the ones installed in India that strictly adhere to international norms.
However, in an affidavit filed in response to a public interest petition complaining of the “deleterious” effects of radiation emanating from mobile towers, the Centre has admitted that it has never managed to test more than 10 per cent of the total towers installed.
According to official figures, there are over 12 lakh towers in the country. And the department has tested 3.30 lakh towers, of which only 212 were found exceeding the radiation limits. On imposing a fine of Rs 10 lakh per site, the department said, it has collected over Rs 10 crore as penalty.
The DoT quoted a World Health Organisation (WHO) report in support of its submission. Over 25,000 articles over the past 30 years do not confirm to “the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.” “These studies are going on for years and are not specific to developed countries alone,” the DoT affidavit read.
The department placed its stand before the top court after the latter took note of a petition and ordered the government to apprise it on whether mobile towers have adverse impact on human health.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner – a Noida resident – had informed the court that the towers are installed in residential areas and near schools. The bench wanted to know from the government whether there were any regulations on the issue and if yes, what those were.
The government said the electromagnetic frequency norms adopted in India was stricter than EMF norms adopted in other countries. Rigorous monitoring and enforcement audit is conducted that has reduced violations.
But, in the wake of a Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report recommending the government to conduct a scientific study on health concerns, the Centre has constituted an expert committee to study the possible impact of electromagnetic field radiation.
The committee, it said, has shortlisted research proposals for further considerations. Nineteen research proposals, including those from premier institutes such as various IITs and AIIMS, have been initiated in 2015. No deadline has been specified for the completion of the study.