It has taken almost three months for the department of telecommunications (DoT) to pay heed to the complaints of actor Juhi Chawla and residents of Malabar Hill, who fear that the mobile towers near Haji Ali juice centre and the state guest house, Sahyadri, at Malabar hill, are emitting harmful radiation.
The concern, highlighted by Hindustan Times in a series of articles, was finally allayed on Thursday when a six-member team of DoT's enforcement reserve & monitoring cell conducted a surprise check on these towers and found the radiation levels to be within permissible limits.
The team was accompanied by Mumbai South MP and Union minister of state for information, Milind Deora. "I had received several complaints from residents about mobile tower radiation in these areas and wanted to be part of the first such drive in the city. My department will conduct more such drives to ensure norms are followed. We will check 10% of towers in every city annually," Deora said.
There are approximately 24,600 mobile towers in Mumbai.
Those found flouting norms will be fined Rs 5 lakh, and the tower will be shut down on repeat violation, he added.
Interestingly, a report prepared by DoT's inter-ministerial committee in January pointed out that even at 1mw per meter-square, it had encountered health issues like cancer. It recommended lowering the limit to 1/10th of the existing level, at 470.'
"The norms we follow are as per global standards and are recognised by the World Health Organisation. But yes, there is scope for strengthening of the norms, which will be done eventually," Deora said.
IIT professor Girish Kumar, who has conducted extensive research on the issue, says that the ICNIRP guideline is based on short-term immediate health effects.
"Unfortunately, in India, we adopted it for 24-hour exposure. Also, there is no clarity on the distance cell towers should maintain from inhabited places," he said, adding that people living within a 50m to 300m radius of mobile towers are in high radiation zone.