BMC to hand over Mumbai's 1,200 open spaces for mobile towers | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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BMC to hand over Mumbai's 1,200 open spaces for mobile towers

The BMC has allowed private companies to install these towers on 20 square metres of space in Mumbai’s parks, play grounds and recreational grounds.

mumbai Updated: Jan 23, 2015 17:45 IST
Kunal Purohit

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to hand over nearly 1,200 of Mumbai’s open spaces to private telecom companies to erect cellular towers.

The BMC has allowed private companies to install these towers on 20 square metres of space in the city’s parks, play grounds and recreational grounds. The first of these companies, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, has got the nod to conduct surveys and install 1,160 base transceiver stations (BTS) across the city, in as many open spaces. The BMC policy also allows more than one such BTS to come up if the open space is more than 1 hectare in size.

A Reliance Jio spokesperson said there were various court orders that reiterated the technology the company was using was safe. “Our towers are safe and have been built in complete conformity with approvals,” said the spokesperson. But residents in some parts of the city have opposed the move. Last week, locals opposed the setting up of a tower at St Almeida Park in Bandra West and now locals are opposing a tower coming up near a garden opposite the Mulund bus depot.

Mumbai has one of the worst open spaces to citizens ratios with only 0.84 square metres available per person, according to a report prepared by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Environment Improvement Society. The national building construction code makes it mandatory for all cities to have at ten times that amount per person whereas norms governing Delhi mandate at least 4 sqm per person of open spaces.

While BMC chief Sitaram Kunte refused to comment on the policy, additional municipal commissioner SVR Srinivas said, “We are allowing it after the improvement committee and the BMC approved of its implementation.”

The Congress’ Bandra corporator Asif Zakaria, criticising the move, said, “The BMC is allowing these towers to come up just five feet away from the children’s playing area. Children who come to play in the open space will be at a perpetual risk because of these towers. The BMC must cancel the permissions given to cellphone companies.”

“It’s our garden and we were not even consulted before such a tower came up. How can we give up our rights over the garden so easily,” asked Mulund resident Mahabir Urs, who has been rallying opposition to the tower coming up in a local garden.

Activists protesting the move say the civic body’s policy is problematic at many levels. Beyond the impact it will have on the city’s fast-dwindling open spaces, there are also safety concerns regarding radiation from cell towers. What makes it worse, they say, is the BMC is willing to allow multiple cellphone companies to install towers in the city’s open spaces.