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Radiation watch on cell towers

Calcutta, Sept. 21: Calcutta High Court today directed the state government to set up block-level committees in all districts to settle complaints about mobile phone towers.

The division bench of Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Jaymalya Bagchi passed the order after 46 petitions were moved, most of them from rural areas, alleging that radiation from the towers was posing environment hazards.

The state will have to include in each committee one member from local self-government bodies like panchayats and municipalities and a representative of the regional pollution control board office.

“The state government has a set of guidelines for the companies to follow for erecting mobile towers…. The government-appointed committees will have to settle the complaints on the basis of the guidelines,” the bench said.

The guidelines bar mobile towers atop schools and hospitals or in narrow lanes. The minimum distance from a residential building has to be three metres.

A panel of three IIT teachers set up by the state in 2011 had recommended that no mobile tower should be allowed within 50 metres of a hospital or a school, or in roads narrower than seven metres. It also said no tower should transmit more than two watts of power. The recommendations are yet to be implemented, an environment official said.

The petitioners have alleged that birds were dying, “trees and plants are facing premature decay and even fruits are being affected”. “Some petitions said people were suffering from various ailments in areas where mobile towers have been erected,” said Anjan Bhattacharya, a lawyer representing 10 petitioners.