A day after BMC commissioner ordered a probe into the issue of telecom towers coming up in gardens across the city, Bandra corporator Asif Zakaria has given notice of motion for raising the issue in the floor of the house of the corporation. He has asked that the proposal, that sanctioned these towers in open spaces, be reopened and reconsidered.
Zakaria, who is also a member of the standing committee, took this step after a meeting with BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte along with residents and civic activists on Wednesday.
BMC has given the go-ahead for installing telecom towers across 400 gardens in the city, according to the gardens department. With a conservative estimate of 4 sqmt of open space being occupied by per tower, this would render inaccessible at least 1,600 sqmt of the city’s scarce open spaces.
Officers from Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom company, that will be installing the towers as part of its attempts to extend pan-India 4G services, have begun inspecting gardens, and in some cases, installed the towers.
The move has been met with stiff oppositions from local residents. For instance, last week, residents in Borivali’s IC Colony and Bandra stepped in to stop construction of a platform, atop which the towers will be installed, in gardens in their vicinity and corporators were roped in and the crane operators and workers were asked to leave the premises. Activists from NAGAR and AGNI brought this to the notice of Kunte.
“In the DP, there are places reserved for recreation and others for utilities. These telecom towers are utilities. The fact of having a utility which could be hazardous or perceived to be hazardous negates the purpose of having an open space. Are we turning our open spaces into places for utilities? Mandatory signs like ‘Danger, keep away’ around these installations are enough to keep people away,” said Meher Rafaat, trustee, NAGAR.
According to members present at the meeting, Kunte also said that other service providers had also sought permission from the civic body to set up such towers, without naming any. However, Kunte did not respond when asked about this. “BMC has followed the rules made by the Urban Development department of state government and took approvals of statutory committees of corporation before permitting Reliance to install 4G towers,”he said.
Civic activists believe that installing telecom towers in open spaces near residential buildings is an easier route to surpass seeking 70 percent of residents’ consent had the company tried to install the towers in a residential building.
“The tower will directly face by window and I’ll be subject to direct radiation. While we have not allowed mobile towers to come up atop our building because we were wary of radiation, here, with towers in the garden right outside our flats, we will be subject to radiation even without our consent,” said Mahesh Desai, Mhatre Towers, Borivali.
According to the letter by the building proposals department to the company, BMC has sought an indemnity bond from the company indemnifying BMC and its officers against legal dispute or complaint regarding Electro Magnetic Radiation level beyond permissible limit, litigation, damages, risks, untoward incidents.
“In Bandra’s Almeida park, the 25m high tower (approximately the height of a 8-9-storey building) is set to come up in a complete sand pit area with swings and other play apparatus that is used by many children on a daily basis. If the children climb the tower by mistake or any untoward incident takes place, who is to blame? The BMC is the first one to wash its hands off and put on it on the company. When I raised these questions with the Reliance officials on site, they said we could fence the area or shift the swings. Where does it stop then? On paper, we have best laws, but the way it is implemented is for everyone to see,” he said.
Reliance Jio Infocomm did not respond to queries emailed to them.