Citizen groups, which have been advocating for safer cellphone tower norms in the city, have written to BMC’s chief engineer in charge of development plan, urging him to initiate immediate action to vacate the stay order of the Bombay High Court on the removal of illegal towers so that the new and stringent norms issued by the state can be applied on them too.
According to data, made public by BMC in December 2013, there are about 3,618 illegal towers in the city, a number which has doubled since 2011. In 2011, after the civic body had introduced a drive to demolish several mobile towers, operators across the city had moved court. The High Court subsequently gave a stay on the removal of close to 1,800 towers in the city.
“The illegal towers are protected by the Bombay High Court stay order of November 2011. The operators and infrastructure providers are citing this stay order as protection for illegal towers, which have been installed even after 2011. But now that the state regulations are in place, citizen groups of Mumbai have written to BMC to initiate action with the High Court to have the stay order vacated at the earliest so that BMC can perform their duties,” said Prakash Munshi, a south Mumbai resident who has been advocating for safer norms.
Citizens’ groups and telecom operators’ associations also met state government officials last week. Telecom operators said that several regulations specified by the state are in conflict with the guidelines issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The state cellphone tower policy came into effect from March this year.
“A condition in the state tower policy makes the impugned regulations retrospectively applicable to all existing towers, including those installed more than 15 years ago. But DoT guidelines are prospective in their application and are effective from August 1, 2013. It is an established position that any law or policy that impacts industry and public interest as a whole cannot be given retrospective effect.
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Towers installed over 15 years ago cannot now be made subject to the impugned regulations. It is impractical for such towers to comply with the impugned regulations. Therefore, this condition is arbitrary and contrary to DoT guidelines,” says a letter submitted to the state recently by Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), Cellular Operators Association of India and Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India.
The letter further says while the state policy places restrictions on installation of towers on schools, colleges and hospitals as well as on the adjoining land building within three metre from the boundary of premises of schools, colleges and hospitals, DoT imposes no such restriction.“The restriction has presumably been imposed on the basis of unfounded apprehensions about the ill-effects of EMF radiation on human health. However, this presumption is ill-conceived.
Further DoT, by making the EMF limits 10 times stricter than internationally adopted limits, has already built in an added safety margin. In view of the same, the condition is unnecessary and unwarranted,” the letter adds.