No mobile towers near city schools, hospitals

Reetika Subramanian

Mumbai, Nov. 14 -- In a decision that will come as a relief to Mumbaiites, the civic body has banned the installation of mobile phone towers atop educational institutions and hospitals, and even on buildings in their vicinity. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has also decided that operators will have to submit location certificates along with a no objection certificate from the housing society management or occupants of the chosen building while submitting the proposal for a licence, which is a first.

"Based on the guidelines of the Union department of telecommunications, we have decided that no mobile towers will be installed on educational institutions and hospitals," BMC chief Sitaram Kunte said.

Citizens and the BMC hope that the need to take permissions and submit documents will make it tougher for illegal towers to crop up.

The city has at least 1,830 illegal mobile towers, many of which are atop hospitals, schools and colleges. The BMC has pulled down only 140 of them as the Bombay high court has stayed the demolition of illegal towers. "We are waiting for the court to vacate the stay, which has prevented us from taking action against illegal towers," Kunte said.

HT has been publishing a series of reports on illegal mobile towers and the effects of high levels of radiation. People living close to these towers are suspected to be at a higher risk of health disorders. In 2010, a survey of six city hospitals - Bombay hospital, Jaslok hospital, Breach Candy hospital, Nair hospital, Hinduja hospital and SL Raheja hospital - conducted by Cogent EMR Solutions Ltd, a Delhi-based firm working on radiation safety solutions, revealed that radiation levels were being flouted.

While the towers atop Raheja hospital were found to be emitting unsafe levels of radiation, other hospitals too showed high emissions.

"The BMC decision is welcome, but the need is to reduce the power of radiation emissions," said Father John Rose from Xavier's Institute of Engineering, which is located a few metres away from Raheja hospital in Mahim. "There may be no scientific conclusion about its health hazards, but our students have complained of severe fatigue, frequent headaches and uneasiness."

India reduced the permissible radiation limit for mobile phone towers to 450 milliwatts/sq m on September 1, prior to which the permissible level was 4,500 milliwatts milliwatts/sq m. Activists and experts suggest that the permissible level be brought down further.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.