Cricket greats see red over cell tower radiation

Residents of Sportsfield are upset with MTNL's mobile antennae; say agreement with the operator expired in Feb 2011 but it hasn't shifted its towers

Residents of Sportsfield building at Worli Sea Face, which has the distinction of housing cricket bigwigs like Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Dilip Vengsarkar, are upset with the languid attitude of MTNL regarding removing their cell towers from the structure's roof.

Healh Hazard: Cell towers on the terrace of the Sportsfield building at
Worli Sea Face. PIC/SantoshH Nagwekar

The society residents had unanimously decided to get rid of the mobile antennae on their building's terrace, following worries over health hazards from radiation emerging from the towers. Accordingly, they informed MTNL to shift the towers. However, MTNL has been dragging its feet over the request, residents claimed, despite the fact that the mobile operator's agreement with the building expired in February earlier in the year.

'Most affected': Ajit Wadekar, who stays on the top florr of the
nine-storey building

Former Indian captain Ajit Wadekar, who stays on the top floor of the ground-plus-nine-storey building, confirmed to MiD DAY the decision taken by the residents. "The decision to remove the towers was taken almost a year ago after media reports on the ill effects of radiation from mobile towers. We have already instructed the society manager to write to the service providers, and it is surprising that no cognisance has been taken yet by MTNL," he said. "We have two towers (MTNL and Idea) and the electromagnetic waves may just be double. Idea Cellular's lease agreement will come to an end in the next few months and we have intimated them that we do not want to renew the contract."

Idea's lease is valid until mid-2012. Wadekar added, "I am the most affected person, as I stay right below the terrace." Office bearers attached to the society informed MiD DAY that MTNL was allowed to install their towers almost a decade ago against a fixed monthly rent, which was revised every three years. The initial agreement was for five years, and was renewed for another term of the same duration. The lease period came to an end in February 2011, and hasn't been renewed since.

They added that MTNL representatives had even attempted to persuade the residents by clarifying the "myth" about radiation through mobile towers. A technical staff of MTNL had attended the annual general meeting of the society held in August 2011 to clarify their stand, but the residents were unconvinced. "MTNL had earlier requested for an extension and were given a grace period until October 31, but they are non-committal now," said an office bearer.

The other side
MTNL General Manager (Marketing) Shashank Malvia said, "MTNL like any other cellular company follows all the safety parameters and adheres to the TRAI guidelines. There is no proven case study to support the claims of the adverse impact of electromagnetic radiation from mobile towers on human health."

He continued, "In the context of this particular case, though MTNL was always keen to extend the contract, we have taken cognisance of the residents' concern and have decided to shift. We have already finalised a new location in the vicinity. The entire process of shifting, including erecting a new tower, cabling etc would take over a month." 

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