Information about the Issue:

Rapid urbanisation brings in the issue of installation of mobile towers in the vicinity of residential areas, schools and hospitals. Regardless of a huge number of complaints, the telecom companies haven’t deterred so far in installing mobile towers near residential complexes and schools. The Courts have also not taken a hard stance so far, as the Companies have usually been able to provide sources to prove that the installation of such towers doesn’t harm humans. Moreover, the Courts usually deem the Government Bodies to be the competent authorities to decide in such matters, however, the research for determining whether these towers have a harmful effect on the ecosystem in which they are installed, seems inadequate. 

As per a 2016 news report, a total of 108 cell phone towers were found exceeding radiation limits in the three years preceding that and penalties were imposed on the concerned telecom providers, however, penalties haven’t discouraged the mushrooming of such towers in close proximity to human and wildlife habitations.

We decided to probe the matter when we were approached with one such issue of a tower being installed in a Residential Area in Sector D, Pocket 6, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. The tower is being installed right outside a residential complex, in the midst of a thriving marketplace, and in front of an MCD School. We investigated the documents, and having found the same insufficient proof for determining the health consequences of such towers on the ecosystem in whose proximity they are being installed, we wrote to the Chief Minister’s Office, Delhi, the National Green Tribunal, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi Development Authority.

What are we doing about it?

We highlighted our concerns, with evidence supporting the same, while questioning the legitimacy of the procedure followed to allow for the present installation. 

Following are the main points of contention:

  1. Questioning the Permission Documents
  2. Legal & Scientific Standpoint
  3. Environmental Concerns & Legal Precedence

We mentioned how, in the absence of a legitimate assessment procedure, installing a tower which can evidently harm the environment, ecology and biodiversity of the area and hence public health and well being, is in grave violation of Article 48A of the Constitution and to that effect is an abuse of the fundamental right of the citizens to a clean and healthy environment under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The adverse health effects of EMF radiation for human and animal health, invokes Article 47 of the Indian Constitution wherein the State is duty bound to improve public health. It is also an established legal principle that Article 21 includes the right to a decent environment and therefore, if there is a conflict between health and wealth, public health will have to take priority.

In light of the aforementioned legal standpoint, invoking Article 51-A(g) of the Constitution, we requested from the relevant authorities to explain the due process undertaken to allow for this installation, in the absence of which this decision will also be an abrogation of State’s responsibilities under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 that instructs them to ensure environment preservation and protection by assessing, inspecting, monitoring and analysing various developmental actions and sites that can be reasonably foreseen as harmful for the environment as per the definition of the said term prescribed under the said Act. 

Our recommendations for course correction in this regard:

  1. That a due process be followed to assess the possible health and environmental effects of the EMF radiation which could be caused by the tower in question. This should be undertaken in consultation with the relevant groups of citizens in this case, which comprise the residents of the adjacent societies, school authorities and shop owners in the adjoining market area all of whom run the risk of serious health hazard in the event that the tower in installed in contravention of a just, fair and transparent procedure.
  2. The company operators should be instructed to furnish clear and correct information regarding the radiation levels of the said tower to the aforementioned group of citizens. The authorities must ensure that there is no falsification of facts or figures in the information so furnished. In the event that this information is proved to be authentic and satisfactory beyond reasonable doubt, it should be examined by a non-partisan group of experts, who the citizens should be informed about and then agreed upon for examining the possible health hazards caused by the tower radiation. Only if this group of experts confirms that the tower radiation is not of any adverse health or environmental consequences for the human, flora and fauna of the area should a permission be granted confirming such installation. If however, the expert examination proves otherwise, the permission for installation should be refused with immediate effect.

What can you do?

  • In case you know of any such breach in your area, write to us with the facts, and we will immediately look into the matter.
  • In case you are a resident of Delhi, and know of any such breach (installation of mobile tower in a residential area/complex, near schools or hospitals), please write to us about the same.
  • In case you wish to volunteer with us, as per your skill set, feel free to reach out.

Important Documents:

  1. Letter to the stakeholders dated 11th September, 2020
  2. Report on Cell Tower Radiation submitted to Secretary, DoT, Delhi by Prof. Girish Kumar, IIT, Powai, Mumbai
  3. India’s mobile tower radiation norms absurd, says WHO
  4. Advisory on use of Mobile Towers in a way to minimise impact on Wildlife including Birds and Bees, by the Ministry of Environment and Forests
  5. Report on Possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife including Birds and Bees
  6. Mobile towers a new source of pollution, says NGT Official

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