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Towering concern

delhi Updated: Feb 27, 2011 02:18 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times
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The concerns are rising despite absence of clinching scientific evidence. Even as the long-term health impact of radiations from cell phones and cellular towers are not yet completely clear, civic agencies don’t allow towers near homes, schools and hospitals.

In case you don’t want a cell phone tower installed next to your home, you can put your foot down. The explosion in the number of mobile phone users in the country has led to the demand for better connectivity, which leads to indiscriminate installation of cell phone towers. India has 5.4 lakh towers of which Delhi alone has 5, 364. This includes both legal and illegal ones. “Some studies list cancer as one of the possible outcomes of prolonged exposure to cellphone radiation, apart from other symptoms such as restlessness, headache, sleep disturbance etc. But it’s still too early to say anything...” says Dr Rakesh Kumar, associate professor, department of ENT, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, involved in a research project on the impact of cellular radiations.

As the world debates the health effects of cell phone radiations (a recent WHO report doesn’t correlate cancer or other health effects with electromagnetic field radiation emitting from cell phone and cell phone towers), Indian experts working in the area advice preventing over-exposure until the actual health impacts of radiation become clearer. “Since the actual effects of cellphone radiation are still a grey area, it is better to be cautious,” says Dr RS Sharma, deputy director general, Indian Council of Medical Research. Sharma is part of an eight-member inter-ministerial committee formed in September 2010 to examine scientific data available on the effects of electromagnetic radiation exposure from cell phone towers and handsets on human beings and the environment.

The inter-ministerial committee report, recently put on the telecom ministry website for public feedback, has expressed special concern over radiations emitted by fixed infrastructures used in mobile telephony, among other things “ The areas of concern include… base stations and their antennae, which provide the link to and from mobile phones. The field intensities drop rapidly with distance away from the base of the antenna…,” said the report. “Towers are considered to be even more dangerous than mobile handsets, as they emit radiation 24X7 with greater intensity, as compared to handsets that can be switched off,” adds the report.

What you should do

Till a study conducted in India on the effects of mobile phone radiation comes out, civic authorities, at least in Delhi are playing safe. “As there are no conclusive reports on harmful effects of these radiations, we decided to exclude schools, hospitals and dispensaries from the list,” said a senior Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) official. “In residential colonies, approval of the resident welfare association and every flat owner is mandatory for the agency to issue a no-objection certificate,” he added. Radiation radar

In case a tower is installed near your home, without your consent, you can write to the MCD zonal office to complain.

The mobile network providers would also have to seek permission from several other local bodies such as the fire department before they are permitted to install a tower.

For now, India is following the global precedent of not allowing cellphone towers near homes, without the owner’s permission. In the future, an India-specific study on the effects of electromagnetic radiation on health could provide scientific evidence on this. Till then, better be safe than sorry.