French woman fights battle to get mobile tower removed from Mumbai building

Juhu Koliwada residents shore up support for French filmmaker’s fight against mobile tower; civic authorities order work to be suspended

For Deborah Benatter (35), a woman of French origin who has been living in India for six years finding a home in Mumbai was only half the battle won. For the last one week, Benatter, who is married to Indian businessman Javed Wani, has been protesting the installation of a mobile tower on her building’s terrace. Benatter is the only resident in a six-storeyed building called Ocean Breeze at Juhu-Koliwada, who has been campaigning against the installation. She has written several letters to the housing society committee and the BMC to halt installation.

Deborah Benatter. Pic/Swarali Purohit
Deborah Benatter. Pic/Swarali Purohit

Yesterday, the BMC issued a notice to the building, asking the society to furnish relevant documents to prove the tower’s legality.

With almost all society members in favour of the tower, Benatter had to seek the support of residents of nearby Koliwada village. Her letter to the BMC’s K West ward office to remove the tower carried 120 signatures from residents.

Parag Masurkar, assistant municipal commissioner, K West ward, said, “Based on the complaint we received, a notice was sent to the society, which has been asked to reply within 48 hours. Till such time, work on the tower is to be suspended.” Ocean Breeze Society chairman Niranjan G says that they have stopped the work on the tower and now it is upto the service provider Indus, to approach the civic authorities and take it from there.

A producer with an Indo-French production company, La Fabrique Films, Benatter, along with her husband bought the Juhu Koliwada home last November. Back then, she was formerly employed with the French Embassy. Born in France, Benatter moved to Ukraine, where she promoted the French film and television industry on behalf of the French Embassy for four years. An avid traveller, she discovered India over the years and “fell in love with Mumbai.”

“I am against putting up the tower atop the building, not only out of concern for my family’s health, but also because there are so many residents living in shanties around the area and there is a school too, whose students will be exposed to high levels of radiation,” she said.

One of Benatter’s letters to the building’s society requests the society to stop work and until it obtains a reply from the assistant municipal commissioner of K West ward.

On March 27, Benatter took the matter to the police, who temporarily stopped the work. A police officer from the Juhu police station said, “We took action on Sunday over a complaint against disturbance due to work on a mobile tower. technically, we cannot anyone from installing a tower until the BMC says it is illegal.”

While the notice by the BMC and the Society saying that it has stopped the work, means some things are moving, Benatter remains skeptical. “Some people have asked me to drop the issue, but I will not relent. I wouldn’t have purchased the had I known of the residents’ wealth over health ideology,” she said.

Benatter’s case is not an isolated one. It is one of several fights that residents are continuing against telecom firms across the city. Skeptics question critics over lack of evidence revolving around the harmful effects of radiation emitted by a mobile tower.

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