The turf war between the Telecom Ministry and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) over regulating electromagnetic radiation emanating from mobile towers has intensified. The Department of Telecom has asked the Ministry to stay away from issuing any policy related to governing mobile radiation.
This follows an advisory from the Environment Ministry in August asking State governments to conduct regular audit of electromagnetic radiations emanating from towers set up by mobile companies. Under this advisory, the Environment Ministry had asked local bodies not to give permission to mobile companies to set up base station in ecologically-sensitive areas, without consulting the Forest Department.
In response, the DoT has written to the Ministry that it was already doing regular checks. “There is no need for any special arrangement for ecological-sensitive areas… Issue of electromagnetic radiation is dealt by the DoT. Involvement of multiple organisations and issue of directions on the same subject by different Ministries will create complication and difficulties,” it added.
The Telecom Ministry and the MoEF have been at loggerheads on this issue for a while with the latter wanting stricter norms and greater role for itself. Earlier, the MoEF set up a Committee to study the impact of mobile radiation on biological systems despite opposition from the Telecom Ministry.
Sibal versus Gehlot
The advisory issued by the MoEF has prompted several State governments to take action against mobile companies. In Rajasthan, for instance, all telecom companies have been told to switch off their cell sites near schools and hospitals.
Communication and IT Minister Kapil Sibal has told Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, to review the decision as it was affecting communication in the State. “Mobile towers have been installed strictly as per guidelines issued by the DoT and they are radiating well within the limits prescribed, which has been verified by the Committee appointed by Government of Rajasthan as well as by the High Court of Rajasthan,” Sibal said in a letter to Gehlot.
Sibal said that the closure of towers in the State may also impact e-governance initiatives in Rajasthan as well as connectivity to village centres. “With closure of base stations near hospitals, doctors will be out of reach for patients. There are large number if hospitals in Jaipur town. The closing down of mobile towers within 500 metres of hospitals will affect about two-thirds of the city,” Sibal said.
Recently, the DoT had asked telecom companies to bring down emission levels by a tenth of earlier permissible limits. Monitoring agencies within DoT have been conducting random checks on towers. It has also set up a helpline to address complaints related to excessive radiation. It also penalised several operators in Mumbai for violating the norms.
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