Telecom operators desirous of installing a mobile phone tower will now need to initially obtain the ‘consent to establish’ from the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and then obtain the No-objection Certificate (NOC) from the concerned local body.
The GSPCB has altered the rule, which earlier required the telecom operators to first obtain a provisional NOC from the concerned local body before seeking the ‘consent to establish’ from the GSPCB.
This has been done in view of the rising number of objections to the installation of the mobile towers on buildings. An enquiry with sources in government and private agencies has revealed that towers are not coming up in view of extortion by unscrupulous panchayats. The various local bodies demand bribe from the owner of premises in such a fashion that the victim feels threatened and gives up on the thought of installing a tower, said sources.
Telecom operators and site owners have accused local authorities across the state of indulging in untoward tactics like passing a resolution against the tower as a pure money-making ploy. “The objection drive is solely aimed at extorting money and this has increased the financial burden of tower infrastructure companies,” a tower firm executive, who did not want to be named, said.
Mobile tower installation has given rise to new forms of business opportunities like mobile tower rental business, as telecom companies do not own the land and space for every mobile tower. Hence, for a large number of mobile base trans-receiver stations (BTS), usually called cellphone towers, the telecom companies take privately-owned space (vacant rooftop or vacant land) on rental basis from individuals who, in turn, get a long-term assured monthly rental income from the telecom company.
Local bodies pass resolutions objecting to the mobile towers under the guise of harmful radiation being emitted from such towers, with the sole aim of extorting money from owners of premises, said sources. Service providers are unable to set up towers at optimal sites due to objections from individuals and panchayats. Radiation levels are lower in India, as the nation has adopted a radiation standard, which is one-tenth of the current international standard. In majority of cases, site owners, including resident welfare associations are warned by local panch members to face objection if they fail to give lump sum amount for obtaining an NOC to install rooftop towers.
Mobile operators and tower firms say that they are not entirely to be blamed for calls drops, which, they feel, have been compounded in the recent months by rampant objections to tower installation by civic bodies in the state.
Analysing the poor connectivity menace, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had said there is an urgent need to increase the current total of 3,500 cell sites to more than 1,200 cell sites in order to cater to the demands of a growing subscriber base since mobile towers do not have unlimited capacity to handle the current network load.
According to a state department official, the GSPCB, along with the Telecom, Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) unit of the department of telecommunication, has tried its level best to create awareness in villages among the public and remove “undue apprehensions” in their minds over the adverse impact of radiation from mobile phone towers on their health.
This awareness was carried out for installation of 61 mobile towers in 18 village panchayats of South Goa to improve connectivity during the BRICS summit. However, panchayats allowed the installation of only 42 towers of which 11 are on COW basis (Cell on Wheel) and three of them have been dismantled recently.
Meanwhile, North Goa Collector Agnelo Fernandes has clarified that mobile towers do not come under the purview of Collectorate, as they are the concern of the GSPCB and the civic bodies and panchayats.