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Towering battle between health and connectivity

Posted by seumasach on December 12, 2012

Times of India

4th December, 2012

RANCHI: The erratic installation of mobile towers in the state have robbed Ranchiites of their sleep. Residents who have base transceiver stations (BTS towers) or mobile towers, installed atop their houses and near their flats are complaining of losing sleep. Some of them have complained of high-irritatibility as well. They are being advised by doctors to shift to a place which has lesser number of mobile towers to get good sleep and restore calm of mind.


M B K Sinha, the assistant professor of Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), said it was common for people living in areas dotted with mobile towers to suffer from sleeplessness and irritability.


Sunil Mahapatra (name changed), a resident of Burdman Compound, is one among a growing tribe of people facing such disorders. “I was advised by my doctor to move to a location where there were less mobile towers. I moved to Namkum in a rented flat,” said Mahapatra. But unfortunately, the Namkum area is also not free from the menace of mobile tower radiation and Mahapatra has to pop sleeping pills for a peaceful night.


Consultant physician and cardiologist Manoj Kumar Vadani agreed, “Shift ing locations in such cases make a huge difference. Areas with radio frequency levels within the acceptable range cause less harm.”


In a number of cases, electromagnetic radiation from mobile towers has led to the impairment of the growth of the foetus in pregnant women, said Gopa Choudhary, assistant professor of gynaecology department at RIMS. “Of late, several incidents of growth retardation in foetus, abnormal birth, and even deaths have been reported owing to mobile tower radiation,” she added. Though Choudhary did not confirm any such incident, she said, “It is a countrywide phenomenon. We will now try to find out more about such effects in Ranchi.”


It is no surprise then that the largest hospital in Jharkhand is itself situated amidst a jungle of mobile towers. Recently, the Rajasthan high court asked for mobile towers in educational institutions, hospitals, playgrounds, jails and monuments to be relocated elsewhere.


There has been powerful activism against erection of illegal mobile towers across the length and breadth of the city. Ashish Kumar Singh, an advocate who had filed a PIL in 2010 for the removal of the illegal mobile towers in Ranchi, said medical reports have already proved that exposure to electromagnetic waves from mobile towers cause loss of retention power in kids and at times memory loss. “It also leads to cancer,” said Singh. A group of environmentalists had also drawn the attention of the high court to the harmful effects of radiation.


Early this year, following the directions of the Jharkhand high court, a high-level team comprising experts from Birla Institute of Technology (Mesra) had been assigned the task of studying the effects of radiation. But the work is still pending because of technical difficulties. Nisha Gupta, the head of the department of electronics and communication, who is heading the team, said, “The study has been stalled because of technical difficulties.”


Despite all this, Jharkhand’s Telecom Enforcement Resource & Monitoring (TERM) Cell, a watchdog under the ministry of communication and IT department of telecommunications, claims that radiation from mobile towers (base station antennae) are within the limits for general public exposure.


J B Prasad, Jharkhand’s deputy director general, TERM cell, said, “Our vigilance experts have conducted an analysis of emission levels on several mobile towers in Ranchi and other districts on a random basis. It has come to our notice that around 100% BTS’s located in Ranchi and other districts are complying with the norms”.


TERM officials had conducted the sample survey in Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and other districts where the BTS’s towers were found 100% compliant, said Prasad.


In 2010, the department of telecommunications (DoT) had issued detailed instructions to telecom service providers across the country for meeting guidelines of International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).


ICNIRP, widely connected to a large community working on non-ionizing radiation protection around the world, is formally recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the field of non-ionizing radiation,” said a senior TERM official. Prasad, however, said if someone thinks that any mobile mast in his area is dangerous or emits radiation, he should immediately complain to the department. We shall verify the same and take necessary action.” There are around 6000 BTSs of 2G, 3G, GSM and CDMA in Jharkhand. DoT guidelines clearly say that sites found non-compliant by TERM Cells will face a penalty of Rs 5 lakh per BTS. It also adds that the site, found non-compliant, may also be shut down.


Prasad, however, said that there is no government direction about the installation of mobile towers near educational institutions, hospitals, playgrounds and other public places.

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