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Cell towers a threat? HC panel to probe

delhi Updated: Jun 01, 2010 01:04 IST
Harish V Nair
Harish V Nair
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The ongoing tussle between the Cellular Operators and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) over mobile tower sealing took a new twist with the Delhi High Court constituting a high-level panel on Monday to ascertain if such towers are a health hazard.

The court has also asked if there is a need for regulating installation of mobile towers and antennas.

Citing a UN report, the high court said, “Thanks to improved connectivity owing to a large number of cell towers, more people in India have access to mobile phones than toilets, but concerns of health problems caused by radiation cannot be ignored.”

Asking the MCD and the telecom ministry to form a committee comprising technical and medical experts, NGOs, cellular associations and public spirited persons, the court sought a report on the harmful effects of radiation within three months.

Sealing of towers stayed till Sept 15

Justice Kailash Gambhir provided an interim relief to the cellular operators by allowing them to operate mobile towers in the city by depositing Rs 2 lakh instead of Rs 5 lakh as demanded by the MCD.

Justice Gambhir put on hold MCD’s policy of hiking installation fee and new norms for installation of tower till September 15 when the court will decide on the petition filed by the operators challenging it.

Whether they have to pay the entire amount will depend on the final judgment of the court.

The court order comes short on the heels of a report of Cogent, a Delhi-based company working on radiation safety solutions, that radiation emitted from these towers was so high that four-fifth of the Delhi’s areas fall under the “unsafe” category.

It mapped 100 radiation hotspots in the city.

The court said a panel had to be formed owing to “conflicting views” on radiation.

While the MCD said the hiking of fee and the new policy was aimed at regulating installation of harmful towers that cause “fatigue and loss of memory”, cell phone operators placed reliance on the World Health Organisation reports saying the radiation did not affect human health.

Radiation scanners in all scrap markets

The High Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response on a petition seeking direction for installation of gamma radiation scanners in all scrap markets following the Mayapuri radiation exposure incident.

The court issued notices to the environment and the commerce and industry ministries besides the Department of Atomic Energy and sought their reply by July 7.

Bone of contention
n Installation fee hiked
from the previous Rs 1 lakh
to Rs 5 lakh
n No towers on schools,
hospitals and dispensaries
n Owner of building to be made co-applicant
n Green signal needed from occupants in group housing societies
n Installation preference only over municipal buildings and vacant plots

Case timeline
Feb 9: MCD issues new cell phone tower policy. New norms for installation, fee hiked from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh
May 7: The last date for operators to adhere to new rules and apply for regularisation
May 12: MCD begins sealing of towers
May 13: Cell Phone operators challenge sealing in Delhi HC
May 14: Court stays sealing; seeks explanation from MCD