Mobile phone towers in populated areas worry legislators
By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: Legislators have urged the National Assembly’s speaker to take serious note of spread of fatal diseases they believed were being caused by emission of radioactive waves and signals from mobile telephone towers installed in populated areas.
Her colleagues echoed the same views when MNA Nuzhat Sadiq said the radiation emitting Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) were causing skin diseases and even cancer.
Demanding of the government to remove towers from populated areas and to be located far away, Ms Sadiq also questioned if there were policies on installing cellular towers in densely populated locations.
“Mothers are giving birth to deformed babies,” said MNA Tahira Aurangzeb, while speaking on a motion on Â“spread of fatal diseases caused by emission of radiation waves/signals from mobile telephone towers installed in populated areas” in the country.
“Every street has a tower standing above houses and plazas,” said MNA Nighat Parveen Mir, saying the rays were strong enough to ‘vapourise’ a bird flying in range.
But Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi said, “The electro magnetic rays or radio frequencies were 300 times below the defined standards. There is no evidence or report so far linking to health impacts to radiation emitted from the towers.” There were more than 26,000 cellular towers installed in the country mostly in populated areas, he said.
Mr Afridi conceded that his ministry was concerned about health impacts – noise, visual pollution, vibration from generators installed on rooftops and physical damages to life and property incase a tower would collapse.
“Radiation remains top most concern. Several surveys by American National Standard and Institute, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Institute and World Health Organisation have been carried out to ensure that radiation emitted from towers was within non-ionising safe limits and did not fall in the ionising category, which are extremely harmful to human health,” Mr Afridi told the house.
He mentioned that general safety rules were observed for public safety by not giving direct exposure within eight meters from radiating surface of the antenna. Environmental protection agencies at the federal and provincial levels had been authorised to examine environmental and health aspects, including installation of towers in public places before issuance of environmental approvals. The minister called for conducting a national study on cumulative effects of cell phone towers installed in the country.
The minister also conceded that no international or local studies had been carried out on biological impacts on human health.
“An NOC is required from the Ministry of Environment before a company can install their tower. Efforts are under way to lessen the number of BTS by encouraging cellular companies to transfer their loads on one tower in populated areas,” he said.