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Residents strike back

delhi Updated: Jul 26, 2012 01:46 IST
Rajat Arora

Are mobile towers a health hazard? It’s easy to say we need more scientific evidence to establish the cause and effect of radiation from mobile towers when you don’t live under the shadow of one.

“I had read that radiation can cause cancer, but I didn’t give it much thought as there were no towers around my house. When one started coming up opposite my home in January this year, I lost sleep and got it removed,” says YR Gadotia, a banker who is also the president of Karol Bagh’s Raigerpura Resident Welfare Association (RWA).

In 2010, the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had amended its policy for erecting mobile towers and laid new norms such as making the owner of the building a co-applicant while seeking permission to erect a tower, taking permission from head of department (building) and RWAs.

What worked for Raigerpura residents was quick action. "We wrote a series of letters to MCD’s building department, which is responsible for stopping illegal construction in the area, saying that a tower was being erected illegally. The day the tower was erected, corporation officials along with the local councillor came and stopped the work," said Saurabh Kumar, another Rajgerpura resident who was also instrumental in getting the tower moved out of the neighbourhood.

Like Gadotia, Sudhir Kasliwal, 63, jeweller, photographer and collector of vintage cars, got the cell phone towers next to his Adinath Marg in Jaipur sealed by the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC). He did so by drawing the attention of the government that the tower had been erected illegally. This is the only case in Jaipur in which the victim succeeded in getting the tower sealed.

Kasliwal’s two younger brothers have been diagnosed with brain cancer, which the family blames on radiation from mobile towers.

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) put radio frequency electromagnetic fields — emitted from cell phones, radars, microwaves, radio, TV and wireless signals — in the same cancer risk category as lead, DDT, chloroform and petrol exhaust.

What worked for Daffodil Apartment residents in Mumbai’s Kalyan west was voting against the committee that supported a tower on their apartment building. It wasn't easy. “The cell phone companies were adamant. It took us a few months to get the tower removed,” says John Verghese, a resident. “We can now sense a difference. Most people say they feel rested when they wake up and there are less health complaints.”

But not everyone is as lucky. Major General MS Moorjani (retd), a resident of sector 44 in Noida, is surrounded by three mobile towers. “These towers have been sealed in the past after we complained but to our surprise, they were reinstalled after a short duration,” says Major General Moorjani (Retd).

But with more people getting aware of their rights, installing towers at a whim will be a thing of the past. “We still have a couple of towers of other network providers in our lane, which were installed in 2010. We’ll also get them removed. We have written to the MCD and are waiting for their reply,” says Gadotia.

With P Srinivasan in Jaipur and Vaishnavi Vasudevan in Mumbai.

Concerns over cell phone towers have no basis: COAI