Turmoil at Mumbai's Malabar Hill over mobile towers

Mumbai's swish Malabar Hill divided over mobile towers; banners, posters line Ridge Road

The first time Malabar Hill saw a protest of this magnitude against radiation from mobile towers, was in 2011. At that time, actress Juhi Chawla was in the midst of a raging controversy, after she raised an alarm over the number of mobile towers on Sahyadri Guest House, opposite her home. Now, more than five years later, Mumbai’s most fashionable address is erupting again on the same problem.

(From left) Amee Mehta, Bakhtawar Chenoy, Gazal Solanki, Parizaad Kolah and Zinnia Lawyer put up posters. Pics/Onkar Devlekar
(From left) Amee Mehta, Bakhtawar Chenoy, Gazal Solanki, Parizaad Kolah and Zinnia Lawyer put up posters. Pics/Onkar Devlekar

A number of mobile towers springing up on the buildings on Ridge Road are creating turmoil on the tony stretch. Residents of three buildings in particular, El-Cid, Hill View and Bay View have come together to protest against a proposed 4G mobile tower, to be set up atop Hill View building. Residents are showing resistance at the proposal stage itself. It also shows that opinion is divided at Hill View itself, with some residents supporting the tower, while many are against it. Hill View building already has three mobile towers and nine antennas, set up since 2008.

Hill View building has 3 mobile towers and 9 antennae on the roof
Hill View building has 3 mobile towers and 9 antennae on the roof

A resident of Hill View building, Gazal Solanki has been fighting against the mobile towers, ever since the first one was erected in May 2008. “We have signatures of around eight families out of the 17 here who are against the new tower. All the older towers were erected without our knowledge, but the society committee has not heard us out. In fact, they are trying to convince us that the radiation from the new tower is ‘harmless,’” said Solanki.

Ridge Road has large banners strung at the entrance of Hill View, saying, ‘Please remove the cell towers from your terraces.’ They have been put up by local residents like actor Parizaad Kolah, former beer baron Zinnia Lawyer (of London Pilsner) and Bakhtawar Chenoy.

“We have been trying to get the existing tower removed. It is less than 50m away from our windows, we fear for our health,” said Lawyer.

Two other buildings, Mangal Kunj and Kailash Niketan, opposite El-Cid, also have a number of mobile towers. Residents of the high profile IL Palazzo (behind Malabar Hill club), are also fighting against a proposed 4G tower on their building. The fight is being led by resident Jeero Pandole, a melanoma patient.

“There is no history of cancer in my family and yet, I have been diagnosed with two types of cancer over the past five years,” said Pandole, whose home is near Mangal Kunj.

Kolah, whose seventh floor flat is close to the mobile towers, has moved out of her bedroom that faces the antennas.

“I had been getting splitting headaches and dizzy spells for some time, and it was only a few weeks back I realised it may be due to the towers’ radiation. I am going to plaster all the windows with a special film which I was told reduces the effects of radiation,” said El-Cid resident Amee Mehta, who moved her eight-year-old son out of his bedroom.

“Many buildings house retired senior citizens, the money from the mobile companies makes for good bonus, at the risk of others’ health,” said well known anti-mobile tower radiation activist, Munshi.

The mobile tower battle is being played out against the familiar tug and pull of the health vs wealth backdrop, that marks most of these wars. The problem though, looks to be a long standing one and those that are opposed to these towers need to get ready for a battle that may be more uphill than the Ridge Road incline itself.

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