Pitching in on the current debate on the possible danger of cellphone radiation, the Environment Ministry says a review of available scientific information by its panel of experts shows that “electromagnetic radiations interfere with the biological systems.” Accordingly, it has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) not to allow new mobile towers to be constructed within a one-kilometre radius of the existing towers.

The advisory was issued by the Ministry after it received the report of an expert committee set up two years ago to study the possible impacts of the half a million strong network of communication towers on wildlife, including birds and bees. There has been widespread concern that radiation from such towers is responsible for the declining population of birds such as sparrows, and bees which are vital for the pollination of many plant species and hence a key part of both agricultural economy and natural ecosystems.

This has been paralleled by unease among some urban residents over the effect of mobile tower radiation in their own neighbourhoods, prompting the Prime Minister to set up a panel last month, mandated to work out a new set of guidelines to prevent the adverse impact of such radiation in tune with global norms. The DoT says there is not enough scientific proof that mobile towers are a threat to human health.

While the Ministry’s advisory is directed towards the Central and State agencies and local bodies, the Ministry has special advice for the DoT.

“To prevent overlapping of high radiation fields, new towers should not be permitted within a radius of one kilometre of the existing towers. Sharing of passive infrastructure if made mandatory for Telecom Service Providers can minimise need of having additional towers,” it said.

Precautions should also be taken to ensure that any new towers do not obstruct the flight path of birds, or increase the combined radiation of all towers in the area.

The location and frequency of all towers should be put in the public domain, with GIS mapping to help monitor the population of birds and bees or the welfare of animals in protected wildlife areas.

The Forest Department must be consulted before any towers are installed near zoos or any wildlife protected zones.

The Indian standard on safe limits of exposure must be urgently refined, added the Ministry.

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