Thursday, February 10, 2011

Towers on schools raise concern

Times of India
Feb 4, 2011 - Page 6

MUMBAI: Cell phone towers perched atop school buildings are causing intense bouts of anxiety amongst parents and teachers alike after a central government committee concluded that radiation from these towers can cause serious ailments.

In recent years, a whole array of schools, ranging from those run by the state to those sporting the "international" tag, have allowed mobile towers to be erected on their rooftops.

Teachers at GM International School, Goregaon, complain there are up to 15 mobile towers on the school premises. The school authorities, though, differ. "We don't have mobile towers on campus, but mobile poles that connect one line with the next," said Gunita Malhotra, a trustee of the school. "The government has tested the radiation emitted by the poles and found it within permissible limits."

Girish Kumar, a professor in the electrical engineering department of IIT-Bombay, calls these "permissible limits" pathetic. "Our studies have shown that one thousandth of the radiation prescribed by the government causes severe health hazards," said Kumar.

In another instance, a mobile tower has existed at the Central Railway Employees High School in Parel for at least three years, without anyone knowing how it got there. Even the principal, Madhuri Hatekar, was unaware of its existence until alerted by the youth wing of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

"This is wrong. We are worried about our children. Such towers should not be put up in a school," said a parent.

The tower also caught CR officials by surprise. "A digital communications firm called Tikona approached Railtel, a PSU owned by the railways, for permission to set up mobile towers. In 2008, the railways gave the firm consent to set up a tower at Apprentice Mechanical Building in Parel. No consent was given to set up the tower on the school," said Vidyadhar Malegaonkar, chief spokesperson, CR. Sources say the Apprentice Mechanical Hostel and the school are housed in the same building.

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