The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as per an advisory it has received from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), has been asked to ensure that no new mobile towers are constructed within a radius of one kilometre of the existing ones. The Hindu reports that this advisory comes at the end of the MoEF's review of scientific information put forth by its expert panel. According to the report by the expert panel, “electromagnetic radiations interfere with the biological systems”. The Ministry's advisory reads, “…Sharing of passive infrastructure if made mandatory for Telecom Service Providers can minimise the need of having additional towers”.
Radiation tags to come soon
Radiation hazard: No new mobile towers in a kilometer radius of existing ones
Two years ago, the MoEF had set up the expert committee to study the effect of mobile communication towers on wildlife. One of the concerns about the negative impact of mobile radiation has been the declining number of birds, particularly house sparrows, and bees. Bees play a crucial role not only in an agricultural economy like India's, but also in the natural ecosystem, for they carry out processes such as pollination.
Those living in urban areas too haven't been spared of the rising concerns of mobile tower radiation. This prompted the Prime Minister to set up a panel last month, with the aim of formulating a set of guidelines on par with global standards to curb the impact of radiation.
The DoT, however believes that there isn't enough scientific evidence to prove that mobile towers pose a threat to human life. The MoEF has advised further that it needs to be ensured that new towers do not obstruct the flight path of birds, or increase the total radiation in the area. As for setting up such towers near zoos or in wildlife protected zones, the report adds that the Forest Department must be consulted. It lastly adds that the Indian standard pertaining to the safe limits of exposure need to be refined at the earliest.
Radiation from mobile phones has been a topic of active discussion in the country, especially at a time when the device is so popular. We had reported earlier that there was a growing need for the government to tackle the mobile phone radiation problem on a war footing. Some movement has already been initiated by the Delhi government with the impending introduction of radiation tags on mobile phones. In fact, in one of our earlier reports we had stated that beginning from September 1 this year, there would be more rigorous checks on the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones.
Mobile phone manufacturers need to comply with Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) rates, so that radiation doesn’t adversely affect human health. This hasn’t been taken on a strict note in India. Hence, the need to reform the existing rules is paramount. Currently, the SAR level for mobiles is less than 1.6 watt per kg for six minutes, over a volume containing a mass of one gram of human tissue. The new rules are likely to be on the same lines as those adopted by the United States and European nations. As part of the new reforms, every handset manufactured in or imported to the country will be monitored for its compliance with the SAR limit, and no handsets with SAR count above the permissible limit will be allowed to be sold. The Minister of State for Communications and IT, Sachin Pilot, mentioned to the Hindu, “We cannot compromise with health issues…companies found flouting new regulations will be severely penalised. All these regulations are important to streamline the telecom sector that is growing at a fast pace”.
At an international conference organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Telecom minister Kapil Sibal confirmed that the cellphone tower radiation levels in the country are well within the prescribed limits; hence, safe.

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