A total of 102 telecom towers (base stations) were found to be violating the new norms for electromagnetic radiation (EMR) set by the government of India in checks conducted since September last year.
The government had told GSM and CDMA mobile operators in India to cut the maximum strength of their cell towers by 90% with effect from September 2012.
The move was vehemently opposed by mobile operators, claiming that such a drastic reduction in the power of their cell phone base stations would make their operations difficult.
As a result, the directive to cut back radiation limits was delayed by several months as government gave more time for operators.
“Strict monitoring and enforcement of revised radiation norms has been initiated,” the department of telecom said in a statement on follow-up action taken to ensure that mobile operators had indeed reduced the power of their GSM and CDMA base stations.
“In 102 cases, where the Base Station Emissions were found to be higher than the prescribed norms, corrective actions have been taken immediately and necessary show cause notices or demand notices have been issued,” it said.
The Department of Telecom has a special cell called telecom enforcement resource and monitoring (TERM) cell that does on-the-spot checking of radiation levels across the country.
If any tower is found to be transmitting more power than allowed, the operator is required to pay a financial penalty.
India is among the countries where mobile towers are set up on top of residential complexes and houses, exposing people near them to high levels of electromagnetic radiation throughout the day. On top of this, many operators in India have been reported to be using high-power base stations to cover a larger area with each tower, and save money.
A government panel asked to study the impact of cellphone radiation on human health had drawn a blank, saying that evidence was hard to come by to either prove or disprove the allegation that such radiation may be harmful to humans. It had, however, urged caution, pointing out that several other species, such as bees and birds, have been reported to be drastically affected.
“The committee notes that most of the laboratory studies were unable to find a direct link between exposure to RFR and the incidence of cancer. However, growing scientific evidences of bio effects and adverse health effects like DNA rearrangement in cells or chromosomal damage is reported,” it said in its final report.
The Committee held that “a number of studies have reported the link between exposure to radio frequency radiation and occurrence of health disorder such as effect on cell growth, cell differentiation, DNA, immune system, hormonal effects, reproduction, neurological, cardiovascular systems, blood brain barrier, interference with gadgets, stress proteins, skin, sleep disorder etc.”
However, the Cellular Operators’ Association (COAI) — representing the country’s big GSM operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea etc. — objected to some of the recommendations of the committee such as –
1) ban on putting up mobile towers on schools and hospitals
2) reduce the power-limits of the existing cell towers by 90% “in keeping with trends in developed countries”
3) impose a limit of 1.6 watts per kg on the amount of radiation absorbed by human body from the handset
4) force handset-makers to display the absorption rate of radiation from the handset (SAR) on the device itself
5) operators should measure radiation levels at prominent places and display it to the public
6) Cell towers violating emission norms should be named and shamed by the government