Expressing concern over the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on wildlife, especially birds and bees, the Environment and Forest Ministry has asked the Telecommunications Department not to allow installation of new mobile towers within a kilometer of any existing ones.
In an advisory issued on the basis of the recommendation of an expert committee on the issue, the Ministry has directed that the new towers should be constructed with utmost care and precautions “so as not to obstruct flight path of birds, and also not to increase the combined radiation from all towers in the area”.
Though the intent is to reduce damage to ecology, COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) in a response to The Mobile Indian said, “The recommendations by Environment and Forest Ministry, unfortunately, do not consider the innumerable studies by international independent agencies of the highest repute who have concluded that EMF emissions from mobile towers do not pose any risk towards the health of both animals as well as humans.”
“Therefore it will only unnecessarily delay and complicate the process of strengthening mobile network in the country,” COAI added.
The new norm of MoEF has also urged the Centre to come out with a notification on mobile tower radiation. However, COAI pointed out, “Government of India/DoT has already adopted and implemented ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) standards for the telecom sector in the country which is considered to be one of the best in the world and has been adopted by over 90 per cent of the countries of the world.”
The new norm calls for regular monitoring and auditing of EMR around educational institutions, hospitals, and residential and recreational areas. It also says that there should be ecological impact assessment of places where mobile towers are to be installed. This, COAI said, is expected to cause delays in network roll out.
India is in the process of rolling out 3G and 4G networks and this new norm can potentially delay the roll out. Operators say that they are already trying to reduce the number of cell towers by sharing towers among them. But there are areas which still do not have even the basic 2G network.
“These recommendations will put the operators in a difficult position wherein the government will ask us to fulfill the license conditions in terms of coverage on one hand; and prevent us from creating the infrastructure for facilitating the same on the other hand,” COAI further told The Mobile Indian.