Fewer mobile towers may mean more radiation, says DoT report
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With radiation scare leading to a clampdown on mobile tower installations, the most discernible fallout is the rising incidence of call drops in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
Ironically, the more serious worry is that weaker signals are forcing mobile handsets to compensate by ramping up transmission power, effectively resulting in higher radiation exposure for users from the phone itself.
Since September 2012, following a Rajasthan High Court order banning the deployment of towers atop schools and hospitals, the crackdown on them has intensified, with Jaipur, Mumbai and Delhi being the three worst-affected cities. On January 21, the Supreme Court extended by three weeks the January 27 deadline set by the high court to remove mobile phone towers installed overhead or in the vicinity of schools, hospitals and playgrounds. The apex court is hearing a plea filed by the telecom operators challenging the Rajasthan High Court ruling.
In Jaipur, in the wake of the 2012 high court ruling, around 350-400 towers are estimated to have been shut down, while in Mumbai around 100 towers have been shut after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation banned installation of towers on schools and hospitals. In Delhi, the movement against these towers has progressively picked up pace, largely in the wake of activism by local resident welfare associations, with around 100 towers now estimated to be shut, according to industry estimates.
"A human body is exposed to more EMF (electromagnetic field) radiation in case of a call from mobile phone in comparison to the radiation from a mobile tower. The mobile phone is a weak source of radio frequency signal, but it is very close to the human body," said a report by the Department of Telecommunications, 'Mobile Communication — Radio Waves & Safety', released in October 2012.
In light of this, in December, the Telecom Ministry rejected a proposal, made by an inter-ministerial committee looking into the radiation limits for mobile phones and towers, to ban the setting up of mobile towers near schools and hospitals. The idea to impose a ban was first floated by the Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC), the standardisation wing of the Department of Telecom.