Protect wildlife from cellphone towers: Panel

India should bring out a law to protect its wildlife from the ill-effects of electromagnetic-field radiation from mobile phone towers, which may be endangering birds, bees and disturbing wildlife across the country, a government panel has recommended.

A 10-member expert panel of the Ministry of Environment and Forests formed earlier this year under bird expert Asad Rahmani, director of NGO Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), studied the phenomenon worldwide and recommended that India should regulate the installation of mobile phone towers recognising electromagnetic field— or EMF— as a serious pollutant hurting wildlife.

"We want some independent regulator which decides what kind of towers should be installed, where and in what density. Such strict regulation exists in Russia, New Zealand and a host of other countries. As a precaution, India could borrow from them because signs of such damage have been apparent for long," Rahmani told The Indian Express.

Electromagnetic field radiation does not figure in India's notified list of pollutants for want of incriminating, India-specific data.

After reviewing 919 international studies on this matter, the group found 593 studies that said EMF bore a significant ill-effect on behaviour and mating habits of birds like urban sparrows and in bee colonies.

In countries like Russia, China and New Zealand, regulation includes the amount of radiation a tower is permitted in certain areas and also prohibiting the installation in "sensitive" areas.

"Strictly control installation of mobile towers near wildlife protected areas, important bird areas, turtle breeding areas, bee colonies, zoos, etc up to a certain distance that should be studied before deciding and should also be practical," said the report submitted to the ministry on Wednesday.

The committee will take up the matter at a joint meeting with the telecom ministry in December so that environmental concerns can factor in the process of installing of mobile phone towers.

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