Not a single cellphone tower in Mumbai is illegal,claimed the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA),suggesting that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been sitting on applications for 4,578 cellphone towers that have already been installed.
According to official figures from the civic body released in September,there are 4,806 cellphone towers in the city,of which 3,661 are illegal and protected by a Bombay High Court stay order on demolition.
In Maharashtra,there are approximately 30,000 cellphone towers,of which 9,000 are in Mumbai. Of these,the BMC is yet to give permissions to ongoing applications,which include 4,578 towers. However,not a single tower has been put up illegally. These have been installed since 1992 as per the policies in effect then. Policies kept changing and accordingly,cellular operators had to re-submit applications for approvals, said Tilak Dua,senior director of TAIPA.
According to Dua,the discrepancy in the BMC and TAIPA numbers on towers is perhaps due to inclusion of regions around Mumbai. He said though applications have been submitted and fees deposited,the hold-up continues. No towers are put up suo motu. They are installed scientifically,which includes radio frequency mapping and calculating the subscriber base. We have told operators to reconcile and started the process of reconciliation and dialogue with BMC to ascertain the reasons for delays in giving approvals, said Dua.
Meanwhile,in light of multiple policies being prepared by the state government and the BMC,TAIPA and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) have demanded uniform norms for Maharashtra. The industry bodies said BMCs draft policy has inserted arbitrary clauses that are not in sync with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) guidelines,and includes a ban on mobile tower antennae on top and within 100 metres of schools,hospitals and allows only one tower on a building/wing of the building. They stressed if such clauses were implemented,it would severely affect voice and data services.
The DoT had issued guidelines for installation of mobile towers in August,after a year of consultations with state governments,industry and public. These guidelines are one of the safest globally and any major deviation from the Central guidelines will lead to severe network failures and massive service disruptions for a city like Mumbai. The guidelines recognise that mobile towers are critical infrastructure with no potential public health hazard and hence towers are permitted on all locations,irrespective of land usage. They dont state any exclusion zones or restriction on installation of towers on schools or hospitals as the safety norms have been set at low enough levels to protect all segments of the society, said Rajan Mathews,director general of COAI.
He added that no operator puts up a tower without demand from the customer and it involves substantial investment of Rs 15-20 lakh. The industry bodies,however,could not give an estimate of the number of mobile towers that would be affected if the ban on schools and hospitals was implemented.
* 4,578 towers installed since 1992 as per guidelines then
* Policies changed over time and operators had to submit applications for approvals accordingly
* DoT guidelines one of the safest globally,recognise mobile towers are critical infrastructure with no potential health hazard