New Delhi: India’s apex pollution control body has warned of radiation danger from mobile towers, while accepting it has no authority to stop it.

An internal Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) note on radiation emissions from mobile towers and its impact on environment said, “Radiation emissions from mobile towers are huge due to its dense installations and unscientific proliferation." Mint has seen a copy of the note.

The CPCB said it does not have any authority to dismantle mobile towers or disconnect the telecommunication service but held that noise and air emissions from power generator sets attached to mobile towers are under its regulation.

“Radiation sources are varied in number like mobile tower, wireless phones, computers, laptops, TV towers, FM towers, AM towers, microwave ovens, etc., however, radiation emissions from mobile towers are huge due to its dense installations and unscientific proliferation," said the CPCB note.

It said the environment ministry had formed an expert committee in August 2010 to study the possible impact of communication towers on wildlife, including birds and bees. The committee submitted its report in October 2011. One of the recommendations was to introduce a special law for protection of urban flora and fauna from emerging threats such as electro-magnetic frequency radiations.

“On the basis of review of the available scientific information by the expert committee, the report indicates that the Electro-Magnetic Radiations (EMR) interfere with the biological systems; besides, impact on human beings has also been reported," the CPCB note said.

The note further said in India, radiation from mobile towers and phones are covered under Indian Wireless Telegraph Act, 1933; Indian Telegraph Act, 1885; and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997; but, “none of the Acts cover the regulation of health impacts of radiation on living beings".

The pollution watchdog said the issue of direct concern to pollution control boards is noise and air pollution from power generator sets attached to mobile towers, for which there are provisions under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Experts said one cannot rule out health concerns from mobile towers and the government needs to step in.

“You cannot say there is no health impact from radiation from mobile towers. There are enough studies to show the probability of health impacts from them. So, one of the measures to minimize health impacts is precaution and there, government has to step in to develop a uniform policy for installation of mobile towers," said Ravi Agarwal, founder director of Toxics Link, an environmental NGO.

Agarwal said mobile towers have mushroomed in a haphazard way. “There has to be some consolidation and some country level planning by government regarding mobile towers," he added.

Noise emissions are governed by the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. It states that increasing ambient noise levels in public places from various sources (industrial activity, construction activity, fire crackers, generator sets, loud speakers, public address systems, music systems, vehicular horns and other mechanical devices) have deleterious effects on human health and psychological well-being of the people and thus, it is necessary to regulate and control them.

Concerns such as radiation from towers causing cancer have discouraged people, especially in urban residential areas from allowing towers on their property. Telecom operators also have claimed that about 7,000-10,000 sites have been locked or shut down across cities due to radiation fears, leading to call drops.

In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi voiced serious concerns over call drops and directed officials to solve the problem quickly. Following that, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned telecom companies of action if call drops are not resolved. Last week, the telecom regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) also asked telecom companies to address the problem.

According to Trai, there are 500,000 telecom towers in India at present, and it is estimated that another 100,000 towers are required to cater to India’s mobile user base which is approaching the one billion mark. India currently has the second-largest mobile phone user base in the world with more than 975 million users.

In India, mobile tower radiation testing and monitoring are regulated by the Telecom Enforcement Resource & Monitoring (TERM) cell of the telecom ministry.

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