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Here”s How Two Citizen Groups In Mumbai Fight To Save The City From Radiation Hazards!

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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.

mobile towers

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?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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