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Friday, August 10

No new cell phone towers in one kilometer radius of existing towers to avoid negative impact on wildlife, Says Indian environment ministry

Pointing out an urgent need to refine the Indian standards on safe limits of Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) exposure, an advisory issued by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) urges the department of Telecommunications to stop allowing new cell phone towers in a one kilometer radius of existing ones, to avoid any negative effects of EMR exposure on the wild life, especially birds and bees.
Cell Phone towers
near Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan

It also directs state and local authorities to conduct Environment Impact Assessment before installing new towers near protected areas. “Before according permission for construction of towers, ecological impact assessment and review of installation sites will be essential in wild life or ecologically important areas. The forest department should be consulted before installation of cell phone towers in and around protected areas”, says the advisory.

It also directs state and local level administrative bodies to take out regular monitoring around protected areas and ecologically sensitive areas to spot any problematic towers. 

The advisory also urges the telecom department to make location and the EMR emission data of all cell phone towers available in the public domain. Location wise GIS mapping of cell phone towers will help future population monitoring of birds and insects around the towers and protected areas, it says.  

Cell phone Towers and Birds

New towers, if at all necessary, should be built in such a way not to increase the combined radiation level in the area or to block the flying paths of birds, says the advisory. 

It also suggests that the security lighting in the vicinity of the towers should be minimal and directed downwards to avoid bird hits. It also directs local bodies to promote the use of visual daytime markers if the towers are located in areas where there is a high waterfowl movement or raptor movement in night.

Expert Group Report

Earlier, an Expert Group to study the possible impacts of communication towers on Wildlife including Birds and Bees constituted by MoEF has found that “the Electromagnetic Radiations (EMRs) are interfering with the biological systems in more ways than one”, based on a review of existing literature. 

There was wide speculation from all quarters that increasing presence of cell phone towers are sweeping away birds like sparrows and bee populations in India due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). However, the Expert Group found that there is a lack of research from India about the effect of EMR from cell phone towers on birds and bees to trigger CCD. 

The advisory has been formulated based on the report of the expert group, said MoEF sources.

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