Acting on the plea of a Delhi resident who has alleged that norms for the installation of mobile phone towers have been flouted, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to the Centre and seven telecom firms. The report comes at a time when the nation is amidst a hot debate over health concerns surrounding the installation of mobile towers and the subsequent radiation emissions. The NGT has directed the telcos to not install any more mobile towers without adhering to the mandatory provisions of law, and without getting the required permission from the competent authority. The decision was made by the bench of the Tribunal comprising acting Chairperson Justice A S Naidu and expert member P C Mishra. 

A revision of existing standards is likely to happen soon

Telcos, Centre face the heat now (Image credit: Getty Images)

Quoting the bench, the report adds, “Considering the gravity of the allegations levelled and the health hazard likely to be caused, we direct that no construction of cell-phone communication towers shall be made without following the mandatory provisions of law and without obtaining necessary permission from the competent authority.”

A response has now been sought from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the Ministry of Communications and IT, the Ministry of Health, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, and telecom firms Bharti Infratel, Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, Tata, Reliance, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, by the next date of hearing, which is December 20.

Arvind Gupta, a resident of Delhi, had tabled his plea in front of the bench through advocate B P Tripathy. Gupta has alleged that the government has been inactive in strictly implementing guidelines pertaining to the installation of mobile phone towers in the country. He has alleged that “norms are flouted brazenly by all companies involved with installation of mobile towers” and that the Department of Telecommunications has not been implementing the guidelines while allowing the setting up of the towers. Gupta added that due to the growth of the telecom sector, the number of mobile towers in the country would increase to 420,000 by the end of March 2017 from 3,76,000 at the end of March 2012. He pointed out that the radiation emitted by the towers adversely affected flora and fauna, and could also cause cancer in human beings. 

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. 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. 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.” 

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