Never Mind the Bees, What About Us?

The Statesman – February 14, 2011

The West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) receives several complaints against radiations from mobile network towers, but it is unable to act on them as it has not been delegated any power to deal with electro-pollution.

The WBPCB officials said that harmful effects of non-ionizing radiation from telecommunication towers is a much-debated topic and had been adequately researched upon to ascertain how it effects human health.

Interestingly, the Union ministry of environment and forests has constituted a committee to assess environmental impact of mushrooming mobile towers on the population of birds and bees but have not done anything to that end for human beings.

An inter-ministerial committee consisting of officers from the department of telecom (DoT), the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Union ministry of health, the department of biotechnology and the ministry of environment and forests, constituted recently to examine the effect of EMF radiation from base stations and mobile phones, called for serious revision of radiation norms existing in the country to suit the Indian environmental conditions.

It said that the DoT has adopted guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) for minimising human exposure to electromagnetic fields.

 However, the existing standards are based on thermal (heat) limits and do not address non-thermal (or low intensity) exposures that are reported to cause cell damage.

A resident of Bongaon, Mr Dipto Tarafdar, who has been running from pillar to post with medical reports of his parents and seeking action against three mobile phone operators who have put up towers in a 3-6 m radius around his house, said: “I have written to several departments, but everywhere they said that they could only deal with air and noise pollution produced by the diesel generators attached to the towers.”

Another resident of the area said that he had been suffering from dizziness and nausea ever since the mobile towers were erected near his house. Several others complained of breathing problems, tingling sensations on their forehead, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness, lack of concentration, ringing in the ears, loss of memory, headache, digestive problems and heart palpitations. According to the committee report, all these are symptoms of exposure to non-thermal radiation from mobile towers. Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of WBPCB, said: “The DoT had ordered an internal assessment of radiation from mobile towers. Accuracy of such assessments is questionable.” The PCB has no power to deal with electro-pollution as it is not in the legal ambit yet, he said.  

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