New Delhi, Aug. 31 (PTI): New radiation norms for telecom towers come into force from tomorrow, allowing only a tenth of the emission permitted by the existing guidelines.
The move is a precautionary one aimed at addressing public health concerns, although a government-appointed expert panel has found no direct link between health and exposure to the electromagnetic frequency radiation from mobile towers.
The bulk of the expected fall in emission levels has already been achieved, since 95 per cent of the country’s seven lakh-odd mobile phone towers are already compliant with the new norms, government officials said.
Under the new guidelines, mobile handsets, whether imported or Indian-made, will have reduced absorption capacity. Also, the minimum distance between a tower with two antennae and the nearest residential building will be 35 metres.
Failure to comply with these standards will bring a penalty of Rs 5 lakh per tower, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said.
“Public health comes first. Technology must be embraced but it ultimately must be subject to public health,” he said.
Mobile users have been advised to use a headset (bluetooth, wired) to keep the cellphone away from their ears. They should also limit the length of calls and make more use of text messaging.
For handsets, the specific absorption rate (SAR) value will now be within 1.6 watts/kg, averaged over one gram of human tissue. Previously, the permitted value was 2 watts/kg measured over 10 grams of human tissue.
However, a year’s time has been given for tuning the handsets that companies already have in their stock. “Any new handset that is manufactured must comply with this norm,” Sibal said.
The SAR value information will be displayed on handsets like the IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) number, used for identifying the particular handset.
The Telegraph Act will be amended to ensure compliance with the new SAR values, Sibal added. The government will set up a laboratory for random checking of handsets’ SAR values.
Asked about the revised norms’ possible impact on the existing infrastructure, telecom secretary R. Chandrashekhar said only a small proportion of the existing towers were likely to be affected.
“At least 95 per cent of the towers are already compliant with these norms but some, particularly those in densely packed places or those wrongly positioned, need to be repositioned,” he said.
The financial implications for the operators are not expected to be high since they need to set up only a small number of new towers, he added.
Sibal said telecom service providers would have to self-certify on compliance with these norms.
“The TERM (telecom enforcement resource and monitoring) cells have to conduct an audit at random on the self-certification furnished by the operators,” he added.
The TERM cells will carry out test audits of 10 per cent of the tower sites at random and in all cases where there is a public complaint.
GSM industry body Cellular Operators Association of India said the industry was compliant with the new emission norms. “The industry will continue to work actively along with the (telecom department) to ensure that compliance is maintained,” it said.
The government will form an expert group involving the science and technology ministry, environment and forests ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research to look into the impact of electromagnetic radiation on humans.