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Rules to rein in mobile towers

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 5: Mobile service providers will not be able to set up their towers without taking permission from the Bhubaneswar Development Authority in the near future.

A draft regulation, which is being prepared by the development authority, will take about six months to be made public. Once the draft is notified and changes incorporated according to provisions of the Odisha Development Authority Act, 1982, the regulations will be sent for approval to the state government.

At present, there is no regulation on installation of mobile towers within the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) area.

BDA planning member Prashant Kumar Patnaik told The Telegraph: “In a hearing last year, Orissa High Court asked the development authority to formulate the regulations so that the planning body may control setting up of mobile towers in the city.”

About the proposed regulations, Patnaik said: “There will be provisions to ensure that tower operators or owners can be held responsible for any mishap. They have to get the necessary approval from the telecom authorities and other structural experts as specified by the telecom regulators at the national level.”

Once the regulations are in force, even existing mobile towers will be under scrutiny and they have to justify their existence vis-à-vis the new norms. If they cannot fulfil them, they will be deemed illegal and the development and civic authorities will take action against them.

Housing and urban development minister Raghunath Mohanty today admitted in the Assembly that 14 mobile towers set up at various locations in Saheed Nagar and Ashok Nagar had never taken permission from the development authority.

MLA Nrusingh Charan Sahu had asked the question on possible mishaps arising out of earthquake, cyclone or from electric and magnetic field emissions. He also demanded that towers be shifted from densely populated areas to the outskirts of the city.

A senior official of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation said their role was restricted to providing a no-objection certificate to the tower operators.

“The corporation collects an annual licence fee. While the civic body takes Rs 12,500 for the no-objection certificate, Rs 3,400 is collected annually as licence fee.”

In the past two years, the civic body has not given a no-objection certificate to any mobile tower operator. At present, there are 250 mobile towers in Bhubaneswar.

“We only verify the criteria such as clearance of the owner, clearances from various other agencies such as the Archaeological Survey of India and Airports Authority of India (if necessary) to give a no-objection certificate,” said municipal commissioner Sanjib Kumar Mishra.

Subhranshu Rath, general secretary, Confederation of Citizens’ Association, Bhubaneswar, said: “Residents of Ashok Nagar often hear strange sounds emitted by mobile towers. It is worrying when things like this happen.”

Not a single private telecom operator responsible for setting up mobile towers in town was willing to speak to The Telegraph. “We do not want to comment,” was their answer when asked for their reaction on the issue.

The Union ministry of environment and forests has already raised a question mark on the safety of mobile towers. Scientists have said many bee and bird species are threatened by the radio frequencies generated by the electric and magnetic field.

Supreme Court has already asked the Centre to conduct a detailed study on electric and magnetic field radiations and their effects.