Following concerns over radiation risk posed by cellphone towers, Urban Development Dept drafts policy that lays down strict norms to be followed by telcos
After a prolonged public debate, the state policy for erecting mobile phone towers is ready and it comes with stringent guidelines. It will be finalised in six weeks by the Urban Development Department of Maharashtra (UDD).
The policy was finalised on July 26 and will be open for suggestions from the public and citizens' groups.
Around 4,000 cell towers across the city transmit radio frequencies round
According to the policy guidelines for setting of base stations, cellular sites, and installation of equipment for telecommunication network in the state, no tower will be installed on an unauthorised structure. Existing towers too, will fall under the scrutiny of the UDD.
The policy comes close on the heels of a notice sent by BCJ Hospital and Asha Parekh Research Centre, based in Santacruz to the neighbouring Ratna Deep Cooperative Housing Society (CHS), asking residents to remove the cell towers on its rooftop. (Towering Trouble for Hospital, MiD DAY, July 27, 2011).
The centre's Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had submitted a report to the state health department and the UDD on radiation risks of cellphone towers on July 18, 2011.
What the draft lays down
Such installations will cover towers, single pole antennae, and even microwave antenna, telecom transceiver machinery, wires, cables, power supply equipment such as generator sets, and cabins or cupboards for housing such constructions. Telecom companies will need to apply to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) through an architect registered with the Council of Architecture before installing such towers.
An agreement copy signed by the property owner, lessee, and occupants of the society will be necessary. A structural safety and stability certificate of the tower from a licensed structural engineer has been made mandatory and design parameters of installation will have to be submitted as well. Along with this, a certificate from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, confirming compliance with the noise level and smoke level norms for power-generating sets is another prerequisite.
Telecom operators have also been directed to file fresh structural stability certificates every three years.
Unauthorised and structurally unsafe buildings are not allowed to install cell sites or base stations.
The BMC is required to respond to the application within two months. In the event of no response, the permission will be deemed to have been granted, as per Section 45 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966.
Currently antennae and structures are built on terraces by obtaining permissions from the BMC's Building Proposal Department.
Existing sites under the scanner
Existing towers that do not conform to the norms laid down by the policy would be removed within two years. The operation of the mobile tower itself however, shall be discontinued within a day from the receipt of a notice to that effect.
Copies of the policy have been forwarded to Telephone Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and the Tata Memorial Hospital for suggestions.
Concerned with the progressively growing number of such antennae accompanied by the increasing subscriber base of cellphone operators, the DoT had appointed a committee of ministers to look into the issue. At last count, there are around 4,000 cell towers across the city, transmitting radio frequencies round the clock.