PHC orders removal of 20 mobile towers over health hazards

Updated January 24, 2019

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EPA given one month to ensure companies follow order. ─ file photo
EPA given one month to ensure companies follow order. ─ file photo

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday directed the provincial Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the removal of 20 mobile phone base transceiver stations (BTS) from the provincial capital’s densely-populated areas within a month over threats to the people’s health.

A bench consisting of Justice Qaiser Rasheed and Justice Abdul Shakoor Khan directed EPA director general Dr Mohammad Bashir to issue notices to the relevant cellular phone companies for the removal of these stations popularly known as mobile towers.

It issued the order after the EPA director general produced an initial report on the directives of the court about the presence of BTS near educational institutions, health facilities, mosques and residential areas in the provincial capital.

The court was hearing a petition of resident Mohammad Naeem, who claimed that the establishment of BTS had adversely impacted on human health.

EPA given one month to ensure companies follow order

The petitioner requested the court to order the respondents, including Pakistan telecommunication Authority, KP EPA, provincial government through environment secretary and heads of cellular phone companies, to ensure that BTS and microwave antennas aren’t installed around schools, hospitals, parks and populated residential areas.

He also sought orders for the relevant respondents to protect people from environmental pollution caused by BTS through the implementation of zoning laws made for environmental protection.

The petitioner requested the court to order implementation of international conventions and policies for the protection of environment from the radiations emitted by BTS and microwave antennas.

Lawyer for the petitioner Noor Alam Khan, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority assistant director (legal) Jawad Akhtar, additional advocate general Syed Sikandar Shah and counsel for the cellular phone companies Farooq Afridi and Mohammad Babar also appeared before the bench.

Dr Bashir submitted a report and said the EPA had so far examined 366 BTS and found 20 of them to be violating international standards for being located within 24 feet or eight meters distance from the population and emitting hazardous radiations.

He said 195 of the mobile towers were installed in residential areas, including 46 near schools and 55 near mosques and that they didn’t pose ‘so much’ threat to human health as showed by a research conducted by the International Radiation Council.

The EPA chief said most mobile towers were installed in residential areas before 2009 when the cellular phone companies weren’t required to get no objection certificate from their installation.

He, however, said after 2009, the companied were bound by regulations to get NOC from EPA for the installation of BTS.

The counsel for phone companies claimed that most mobile towers didn’t cause health hazards for people’s health. They requested the court to provide protection to BTS.

Justice Qaiser Rasheed observed that nothing was more important for the court than human health.

He added that even the buildings put up more than 40 years ago were demolished on the Supreme Court’s orders for being encroachments.

Noor Alam Khan said the mobile towers were installed on plaza rooftops and other places across the province, especially in Peshawar.

He claimed that those towers posed health hazards as they emitted microwaves at frequency of 1900 megahertz adversely affecting every biological organism within one square kilometer.

The lawyer said researches had showed that microwaves emitted by BTS caused several health hazards, including headache, cardiovascular stress, memory loss, miscarriages, cancer, low sperm count and disturbance of the nervous system.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019