It may now be mandatory for mobile operators in Mumbai to secure consent from 70 percent of housing society residents before installing a cellphone tower on the building, reports The Times of India. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has included this in its draft policy on cellphone towers along with several other guidelines. 

The hazards of the radiation emitted by cellphone towers have been a topic of great debate in recent times. The Times of India report highlights that several residents have come up strongly against the managing committees in their housing societies over the installation of cell phone towers without their consent. 

Municipal commissioner, Sitaram Kunte was quoted as saying, “We plan to make it mandatory for an operator to get 70 percent consent from the occupants of a housing society on which a mobile tower is proposed. Citizens' views must be considered before a tower is allowed on their building.” 

A revision of existing standards is likely to happen soon

Cell phone tower installations to need 70 % consent (Image credit: Getty Images)

Kunte shared that the framework for this rule will be akin to that of any redevelopment or slum rehabilitation proposal, wherein 70 percent consent of the residents is sought before finalising the plan. 

The proposal maintains that no more than two towers will be allowed to be installed on the terrace of a building. In order to proceed with the installation, a structural certificate will be required from a structural engineer with a BMC licence. The proposal itself came into being based on the instructions of the High Court. 

The BMC has raised the mobile operator's deposit amount in the draft proposal. A senior civic official from the building proposal department was quoted as saying that the deposit amount will go up to Rs 50,000 from the earlier Rs 5,000. Some additions are being made to the draft policy based on the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) guidelines on mobile phone tower installations, which will be shown to the BMC. “There are a few clauses in the draft policy which will need the civic general body's ratification. We will soon table the policy before the body,” Kunte added further. 

Recently, new radiation norms were adopted by India, and the DoT had set September 1 as the deadline for the telecom operators to adhere to them. As per the new norms, the operators were mandated to reduce the radiation levels by one-tenth of the current levels, thus making them 0.9 watt/m2. Furthermore, it was announced that operators found flouting these rules would be heavily penalised. 

Even in the absence of scientific data to determine the role of mobile towers in emitting harmful radiation, many are convinced that these towers are indeed death traps. Their belief is backed by instances that have been witnessed in the country — be it the Kaiswal family from Jaipur where three family members were detected with cancer after the installation of mobile phone towers five metres away from their house, or the Usha Kiran building in Mumbai that cited three cases of brain tumour attributed to the mobile phone towers installed on the rooftop of an adjacent building. While some may shrug these off as mere coincidences, several housing societies have now come forward to protest against these towers.

According to an estimate, currently there are around five lakh mobile phone towers in India. And today, thanks to the ever increasing popularity of mobile phones, it’s imperative for the operators to install towers to provide coverage. This will further increase their number in the future. With lack of conclusive evidence about their safety or even their role in causing cancer, the common man is at crossroads, especially those living around these towers.

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