Of the 3,705 mobile phone towers across the city that can jeopardise your health and life, 1,830 — that’s roughly half of them — are illegal, says the civic body. But the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which discovered this fact last June when it conducted a survey of mobile phone towers, has done nothing for the past 13 months to remove the illegal ones.
So far, officials have taken action against only 140 illegal towers.
As reported in HT’s July 15 edition, it’s common for people living close to mobile towers to experience the side-effects of radiation, such as headaches, joint pains, disturbed vision, itchiness, anxiety, lack of concentration, sleep disturbances and fatigue, among other symptoms; cancer happens in extreme cases.Civic officials said they cannot do anything against the illegal towers as a writ petition filed by mobile tower operators is pending in Bombay high court. "The court has directed us to maintain status quo, so we cannot take action," said CL Undage, assistant engineer, building and proposals department, BMC.
Experts said the BMC should at least work towards controlling radiation levels and reducing the health risk, if it cannot remove these mobile phone towers. “To avoid having to make the big investment needed to install more towers, mobile tower owners increase the radiation level of the existing towers. The high level of radiation affects the health of people living in the vicinity,” said Professor Girish Kumar, department of electrical engineering, IIT Bombay.
In January 2011, an inter-ministerial committee report recommended that radiation exposure be reduced to 450 mw/sq m, but the suggestion has not yet been implemented.
“The solution is to reduce the radiations levels and install towers only on the tallest building in a locality, which has no buildings of similar height around it,” said Kumar.
Vinod Shah, a resident of Carmichael Road in D-ward, which has the second highest number of mobile phone towers in the city – 303, of which 141 are illegal – said the BMC should contest the issue in court.
“The BMC should bring the health hazards owing to radiation to the notice of the high court,” he said.
Shah said the towers have affected the health of many people in D-ward, which includes Malabar Hill, Kemp’s Corner and Grant Road. “The radiation levels are very high even when measured 200 to 300 meters away from the site. Residents have health issues all the time,” he said.
Shah, who lives at Ajanta Apartments, added, “We have had two fatal cases of cancer in our building since these towers have been erected.”
The K-west ward, which includes Andheri (West) and Oshiwara, have the highest number of mobile phone towers at 323, of which more than 50% - 198 — are unauthorised.