INDIA DEFENDS HEALTH FROM WIRELESS

Panel for cap on cell tower radiation
Shalini Singh, TNN | Dec 21, 2011, 04.25AM IST

NEW DELHI: Electromagnetic radiation from mobile towers must be brought down to one-tenth of existing levels, an inter-ministerial committee has said, in the run-up to framing the country’s first guidelines in the matter.

India has around 4 lakh mobile towers and with 3G mobile telephony, an additional 1 lakh towers will be needed, according to Trai. The mobile base stations mounted on these towers emit radiation, feared to pose health hazards. The panel has urged continuous online monitoring and display of emissions and a national database of the stations. P 11

Sixteen years after the introduction of mobile telephony in India, the government is finally readying the first set of guidelines on electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from mobile base stations mounted on cellular phone towers.

India has roughly 4 lakh mobile towers according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

These towers also consume a huge amount of energy-about 2.7 crore units of electricity and over 200 crore litres of diesel daily.

According to Trai, the 3G/BWA rollout will require extra 1 lakh towers to cater to a total of 100 crore subscribers by 2014.

An inter-ministerial committee has concluded that the exposure limit for the radio frequency field (base station emissions) should be fixed at one-tenth of the existing levels. Provisions for continuous online monitoring and display of radiation levels in mobile network frequency range at prominent places in metros/cities, and online data transfer to a central server will need to be ensured.

Mobile operators, apart from self-certification for compliance of radiation norms, shall measure the radiation level in mobile network frequency range of prominent places and display it for information to the public. A mobile unit will have to be ready for such measurement when necessary.

A national database with information of all base stations and their emission compliance is being created and will be posted on the DoT website. Originally, the committee had discussed imposing restrictions on mobile towers within school and hospital premises.

The telecom ministry deleted this recommendation and instead requested it to incorporate “uniform guidelines to enforce restrictions on setting up BTS (base transceiver station) towers, along with an appropriate framework to ensure structural safety clearance for towers set up on rooftops of buildings”.

In the master plans of towns and cities, the location for installing towers will be identified in consultation with the ministry of urban development.

New-technology low-power transmitters will be installed with in-building solutions for future expansion of the mobile network.

The government will also encourage long term scientific research related to health aspects of EMF radiation exposure from multiple antennae of shared infrastructure sites. While the guidelines seem ambitious, it remains to be seen whether they can be implemented across over 4 lakh mobile towers.

Several organizations and citizens groups have been protesting over the years against mobile radiation towers, pointing out that these pose a grave health hazard. These protests have finally pushed the government to issue these guidelines.

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