New Delhi: Expressing concern over mushrooming of cellphone towers across Indian cities and the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) they emit, a parliamentary panel has asked the department of telecommunications (DoT) to frame suitable regulations and guidelines regarding the location and inspection of the towers.

The parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests, headed by Congress MP Ashwani Kumar, asked the department to take up comprehensive scientific studies to conclusively establish the level of risks and adverse health effects of EMR.

It also asked for the implementation of the recommendations of a 2010 study by the Union environment ministry, which studied impacts of communication towers on wildlife, including birds and bees.

The study had recommended recognizing EMR as a pollutant, introduction of a law for protection of urban flora and fauna from EMR, mandatory public consultation before installation of cellphone towers in any area, among other measures.

DoT secretary told the committee they are open for further studies as the time frame of 20-30 years may not be sufficient to reach conclusions on such kind of research; the effect on human health or on birds and animals, flora and fauna, happen over a long period of time, and human information and knowledge keeps changing over the time based on different sets of information.

He said DoT had invited R&D proposals from scientific organizations on studies of different kinds, such as the study on the life of the bees, birds, humans, flora and fauna; 79 proposals have already been shortlisted.

“So, when these studies are conducted, maybe further knowledge will be thrown up which will be very much country specific, India specific. But, at the moment, whatever norms the department are adopting in this country are very, very safe," the secretary added.

In its report presented to Parliament on Thursday, the parliamentary committee said, “In view of unrestricted location of mobile towers in cities and smaller towns, cell towers are having a concentrated effect".

Besides seeking guidelines to regulate location and inspection of the mobile phone towers, the committee batted for increasing number of qualified inspectors to check the effects of EMR from cellphone towers. It further said that random checking and inspection reports of cellphone towers should be made public.

The panel also noted that they are aware that Indians are more vulnerable and prone to risk from radiations compared with residents of European countries because of their low body mass index and low fat content.

“Comprehensive scientific studies need to be undertaken to conclusively establish the level of risks and adverse health effects of EMR of cellphone towers. The committee presently working on the issue should be directed to expedite their reports which should be given within a stipulated time frame," the committee recommended.

“Stringent penalties for violation of norms and guidelines be prescribed and these should go beyond fiscal penalties," the panel report said.

Despite several studies worldwide, there is no concrete evidence as yet to establish that exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health. However, the issue of effects of radiation from cellphone towers has become a widely discussed topic among masses.

Close