cell phone tower
A 42-year-old domestic help will go down in history as the man who persuaded the Supreme Court to shut down a mobile phone tower on the ground that its electromagnetic radiation+ afflicted him with cancer.

Last year, Harish Chand Tiwari, who works at the residence of Prakash Sharma in the Dal Bazar area of Gwalior, moved the SC through advocate Nivedita Sharma, complaining that a BSNL tower illegally installed on a neighbour's rooftop in 2002 had exposed him to harmful radiation 24x7 for the last 14 years.

The order is likely to further fuel the debate over the effects of radiation from mobile phone towers+ with a section of activists feeling vindicated while the government argues there is no evidence to prove that the waves cause cancer.

Radiation from the BSNL tower, less than 50 metres from the house where he worked, afflicted him with Hodgkin's Lymphoma caused by continuous and prolonged exposure to radiation, Tiwari complained.

In a recent order, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha said, "We direct that the particular mobile tower shall be deactivated by BSNL within seven days from today." The tower will be the first to be closed on an individual's petition alleging harmful radiation.

The SC, which began hearing the issue relating to radiation from cell towers from March 18 last year, had asked the parties to file additional documents to show that radiation from such towers were harmful to humans and animals+ .

Private petitioners have been predicting disastrous consequences in the future.

Activists have alleged that radiation from mushrooming mobile phone towers have caused sparrows, crows and bees to vanish.

But the Cellular Operators Association of India and the Union government have vehemently denied the allegations and said such fears were unfounded and that no scientific study had conclusively linked mobile phone tower radiation to cancer or vanishing of sparrows, crows and bees.

Comment: Studies conducted or funded by the tech industry always deny or downplay any negative effects of EMF, yet there is abundant evidence of harm from independent research:

The department of telecom (DoT) in its affidavit before the SC in October last year had said that of the over 12 lakh mobile phone towers in the country, it had tested 3.30 lakh towers.

It said only 212 towers were found exceeding radiation limits and they were fined Rs 10 lakh. It said so far Rs 10 crore was collected from different cellular operators as penalty.

DoT had relied upon a World Health Organisation (WHO) report as well as over 25,000 articles in the past 30 years to say that there was no confirmation of "any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields".

In 2014, a parliamentary committee had recommended to the Union government to carry out a scientific study by a reputed government agency on impact of telecommunication and mobile phone towers and handsets on humans. Private petitioners had alleged that no such study had been undertaken.

But the DoT had informed the court that the Centre had constituted an expert committee to study the possible impact of electromagnetic field radiation