Hemmed in by residential buildings on three sides, the three-storey Hotel Supreme in Cuffe Parade has a staggering 29 mobile phone towers and antennae — reportedly the largest tally for a single spot in the city. The towers are crammed next to each other, their wires and chords snaking dangerously close to the power cabins on the rooftop.
Fear reigns supreme: The mobile phone towers atop Hotel Supreme in Cuffe Parade are packed close to each other, their wires and chords dangerously close to the power cabins. PICs/BIPIN KOKATE
Residents of nearby buildings have seen the number of towers multiply over the years, from reportedly two in 2011.
Gaurav Bhatia (37) of Clover Apartments, located just 40 m from this radiation hotspot, says residents have written to the A-ward office and the municipal commissioner, urging them to take immediate steps to remove the antennae.
Naseema Ariswalla, a resident of Clover Apartments
“We will meet A-ward officials on Wednesday. I have small children at home and I am not comfortable bringing them up in a high radiation neighbourhood.”
Kiran Dighavkar, A-ward officer, says such towers are not allowed on the terraces of buildings as they pose the risk of radiation leakage. “In 2012, telecom firms had approached the HC with a petition on erecting towers. They procured a stay [against the order barring such construction]. However, this court order was applicable only to those companies that had approached the court. I need to check when these 29 towers were erected, how many of them have the stay order, and whether they have the necessary paperwork.”
When mid-day approached the owner(s) of Hotel Supreme, they were unavailable for comment.
Not the first letter
This is not the first time that Clover Apartments residents have written to the authorities.
“In 2012, a member of our society had written to Sitaram Kunte, then civic commissioner,” says Sameer Javeri (34), another resident. “In his reply, Kunte told us that these towers and antennae were illegal as the hotel owner(s) did not have the required permission, and that the BMC would look into the matter. But no action has been taken.”
Rather, the number of cell antennae on the roof has only increased manifold.
“When we came here in 2011-12, there were only two towers,” says a resident of Kalpavruksh Heritage, located a mere 6 m from the hotel.
Javeri points out that the towers pose a fire hazard as they are located close to the power cabins.
Residents allege health disorders
Naseema Ariswalla (64), who has been residing at Clover Apartments for the past 40 years, holds the towers responsible for a spate of health disorders. “I slipped into depression two years ago. My sleep cycle became irregular and I had frequent headaches.” She has put protective films on her windows and multiple curtains as a ‘shield’ against the incoming radiation. “I have suffered many health setbacks. I realise that these were the effects of radiation,” says Farida Petliwala (65), a fifth floor resident of Clover. “I suffer from severe headaches.”
Doctor says it’s all psychological
Jigar Desai, a radiologist at Breach Candy Hospital, says the alarm over such radiation is “completely over-hyped.” “To prove anything, a study is needed. But since these towers have come up only in the last 20 years, such a study doesn’t exist.” Desai points out that headaches and irregular sleep patterns that people living close to cell towers complain of are more of a psychological effect. “You can conduct a placebo experiment, wherein you tell residents that you have installed a cell tower on the building, and they will experience the same symptoms. It’s psychological.”
As per the department of telecommunications, no cell tower can be shorter than the top of a building/structure right in front of it. However, all three buildings surrounding the hotel — Clover Apartments, Kalpavruksh and Mittal Grandeur — are taller than the towers.