By Neha Mayuri:
We are talking about the Alpha World City, which is the wealthiest city in India! The commercial and entertainment capital of India is now facing radiation hazards. Residents of Pali in Bandra, Mumbai, do not ever permit their children to step out into their balconies due to fear of mobile tower radiation.
Studies continue to highlight the potential health hazards posed by cell phones and state that cell phone towers cause serious health problems. The health hazards posed by the radiation caused by cell phone towers outweigh the benefits but the authorities in Mumbai respond with half baked measures. The authorities fail to take a clear stand against radiation and lives are at a great risk of mobile tower radiation in the city.
On the other hand, two citizen groups in Mumbai are fighting hard to save the environment and the citizens of Mumbai from the hazardous effects of radiation. Running an anti-radiation movement, the F-North Ward Citizens’ Forum in Matunga and Bandra’s Perry Road Residents’ Association are perfect examples of saving the environment and are working diligently towards tackling cell tower radiation.
According to a report published in DNA on August 20th 2013, The F-North Ward Citizens’ Forum is chalking out a plan to add more trees to the existing ones in their area, beginning with Dadar’s Hindu Colony. “We are against high radiation and its repercussions. To reduce ill-effects of radiation, we are planning to plant more trees, which will act as an absorbent,” Nikhil Desai, member of the forum, said.
Desai said the forum will pressurize the BMC to ensure that it plants more trees and reduces the level of radiation. BMC has been claiming that it has the power to regulate the number of cell phone towers on a building but that it cannot regulate radiation levels emitted from these towers, which it claims falls under the purview of department of telecommunication (DoT). The Bandra association, which claims to have ensured 100 per cent survival of trees along Perry Road in the past five years, wants to encourage other citizens’ groups. “Good things need to be followed in public interest. So, we will also reach out to other residents associations,” said Anil Joseph, chief of the association.
According to the 2008 tree census, carried out by the BMC, the F-North ward (Matunga, parts of Dadar and Sion) and H-West (Bandra) had 82,417 and 83,176 trees respectively. Overall Mumbai reported a cover of 19,17,844 trees. The civic body expects the tally to increase roughly by 20 lakh trees in the next four years. Activist Prakash Munshi welcomed the initiative, with a suggestion. “But with the growing exposure to high radiations and transmission powers from cell towers we must convince the government to curb the levels to save us from immediate troubles,” he said.
However, the experts have a different story to narrate. They state that if the trees were to increase, the cellular network might work less efficiently. But they also say that if we work on it, it’s quite possible to achieve the desired equilibrium between the two. “We can achieve this by installing large number of low power transmitting cell antennas,” Girish Kumar, professor of electrical engineering department at IIT-Powai told DNA. A shocking fact is that according to a survey conducted by the BMC, over 3000 out of 4776 towers in the city are illegal; Malabar Hill has 333 unauthorized installations and Bandra has 300!
Moreover, the Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell in Mumbai is understaffed as well as under-equipped. It was set up at a time when there was no awareness of the potential dangers including cancer, due to the mobile tower radiation.
Ironically, DoT’s guidelines require government agencies to first consult their respective TERM cell for approval before removing or shifting of towers over radiation or other fears. This apparently infers citizens cannot take action without approaching the TERM cell. Public participation to reduce the potential hazards will be to no avail till the time authorities wake up and become sensitive to the potential dangers caused by these mobile phone towers.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found indicators of a major risk of cancer in the saliva of people who were heavy users of cell phones. Since cell phones are placed close to the salivary glands when in use, the scientists decided to examine the saliva of users to look for clues in the relationship between these phones and cancer. They examined men who used their cell phones for at least eight hours a month, although most cell phone users speak for much longer, as much as 30 to 40 hours a month, according to researcher Dr. Yaniv Hamzany of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Their saliva was compared to people who didn’t use cell phones at all, or only used them to send text messages. The scientists discovered that the saliva of those who were heavy users showed high amounts of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress produces free radicals which damage all parts of cells including DNA, and is an important risk factor for cancer.
“This suggests that there is considerable oxidative stress on the tissue and glands which are close to the cellphone when in use,” Dr. Hamzany says. “The damage caused by oxidative stress is linked to cellular and genetic mutations which cause the development of tumors.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a statement in 2011 which stated that cell phones may cause cancer in humans and currently classify them as carcinogenic category 2B – potentially carcinogenic to humans. Studies found that using a cell phone for 10 years doubles the risk of developing a type of cancerous tumour that killed US Senator Ted Kennedy.
While there are talks of dangerous and life threatening radiation hazards posed by cell phone towers, it seems that the authorities have turned a deaf ear to it. When will they wake up and realize that human lives cannot be put at risk, environment can’t be destroyed at the cost of technological advancement?