After the Supreme Court's interim order last month to remove a mobile tower in Gwalior over harmful radiations, the government has upped the ante by launching a website - Tarang Sanchar - today that gives information on mobile towers and their EMF (electromagnetic field) emission rates across the country. The portal, launched by communications minister (independent charge) Manoj Sinha, is accessible to everyone who wants information on telecom towers in a particular locality and whether they are complying with the EMF emission norms defined by the government.
The data on the radiation levels of telecom towers is provided by each telco while DoT's (Department of Telecom) TERM cell will monitor it. TERM Cell has done random testing of about 10 per cent towers across 22 circles. According to industry body COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India), there are about 3.3 lakh base transceiver stations (BTSs) installed in the country, and only about 0.064 per cent of the BTSs were found to be violating the emission norms.
The issue of radiation hazards is expected to gain momentum as telcos plan to expand their network. It's believed that India needs nearly 1 lakh towers per year to meet the growing data and voice traffic. The matter is expected to come for hearing at the Supreme Court in July. The apex court will listen to the petition against telecom towers. Concerns have been growing over towers with telcos busy in expanding their network. Several petitions have been filed in various high courts. Already, eight high courts have said that there are no health concerns with towers while Rajasthan high court has taken a contrarian view.
DoT has thus far maintained that EMF standards followed in India are ten times stricter than the international standards prescribed by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and recommended by World Health Organization (WHO). "Though there is no scientific evidence of any health concerns from low power mobile BTSs, a need was felt to educate the citizens about EMF emissions from mobile towers and status of their compliances. In its endeavour to clear misconceptions around the issue of mobile tower emissions, DoT has launched Tarang Sanchar Portal. The portal will generate confidence among the public about effectiveness of the EMF compliance process in India," said P.K. Pujari, Secretary, DoT.
The differing views of government and judiciary on the matter - and absence of a highly credible research report on the health hazards of towers - is expected to keep this issue alive a while.