Four residencies around Vile Parle, one having been diagnosed with brain tumor and the three others with cancer, are blaming their ailments on a nearby cell tower that was put up in 2008.
For Aditya and Ankita Shah (names changed), a recently wedded couple, it was a dreadful experience when he was diagnosed with stage IV brain tumor last May. Aditya being a professional doctor, practices in a clinic on the ground floor of the apartment.
Padmaben Shah, an 83 year old woman residing in the second floor, discovered she had bilateral breast cancer during the same month. Jayashreeben Dave, 74, resident of the first floor, was diagnosed with cancer of the colon, three years ago. The initial case was of Hansa Shah, an occupant of the ground floor, who was detected with ovarian cancer in 2009, at the age of 54, soon after the tower was installed.
The residents had protested against the presence of the tower opposite Hina Kunj, but the operator’s management has ignored them.
“It all started with ear pain and in a matter of no time, an MRI test and biopsy indicated brain tumor. It was devastating. I found that there were three others in the building suffering from cancer. That’s when I realized that it could be due to exposure to electromagnetic radiation from the nearby cell phone tower,” said Ankita. Aditya had to undergo surgery in May and had six months of chemotherapy sessions following the surgery.
St Xavier’s High School and an orphanage are also situated close to the tower. But the requests that were put forward from the residents, school and orphanage since 2008, was of no avail.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) draft guidelines state that all occupants below the terrace of the buildings that have a cell tower must give their consent initially. A no-objection certificate from the cooperative society and the permission of the building’s owner and 70% of the occupants are also needed. Only two towers are permitted on a building or a wing.
The mobile service provider has to provide a statement that there is no building as tall as the lowest antenna opposite the tower. For two antennae, the other buildings must be 35m away, for four 45m away and so on.
The civic K (W) ward office issued a notice to the operator, under Section 152 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966, to demolish the unauthorized tower within 2 weeks. The notice stated that BMC would remove it after 15 days and prosecute Reliance.
The civic body responded after corporator, Ameet Satam, wrote to them to take quick action against the mobile tower operator for putting the area residents at risk of health hazards.
Dr Girish Kumar of IIT Bombay said, “It depends on proximity to a tower, as well as the number of towers. It also depends on power transmitted by each antenna, the number of antennae and radiation pattern. Maximum radiation is in the front direction of the building. That is when the entire zone is converted into an open microwave oven.”
Industry sources state that radiation norms accepted by the government are close to 90% lower than globally adopted norms and almost all operators obey them.