Telecom industry divides over radiation and pollution from towers

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The second international conference on ‘Green Telecom India 2010‘, held at New Delhi witnessed disagreement over the allegedly high level of radiation and pollution from telecom towers and equipment including handsets. Highlighting the lack of regulations on radiation and other pollutants from telecom towers and equipment, Rajiv Mehrotra, president of Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA), asked why it was the same foreign manufacturers who were implementing extremely low levels of radiation for their equipment in their countries were not using these technologies in the items they were selling in India.

Mehrotra alleged “double standards” in the case of foreign manufacturers. However, Rajan Mathew, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) added, “In the West, they do not radiate at such high power in the tower. One base station leaves 60 tons of carbon dioxide a year. The numbers already installed spew 6 million tons of CO2 every year.” He regretted for not having a law to regulate these and thus, called for immediate government action to enforce international standards. The total pollution level from the entire ICT industry was only two per cent of the pollution in this country. As telecom industry forms less than half a per cent of the ICT total, the pollution from it alone could not be alarming, he contended.

Another cause was license requirements for a certain level of roll out of the service. To reduce pollution, operators were using base stations that do not require air conditioning. Diesel gensets were being substituted with hybrid ones. Several telecom executives also emphasized the need for greater availability of grid power in rural areas to obviate the need for setting up diesel gensets. “Government must give power to towers and base stations to reduce use of diesel,” said Gopal Das, chairman and managing director, BSNL. Government support was also needed to offset the high cost of using alternative sources of energy like solar panels. Supporting the greater use of non-conventional energy sources in telecom energy sector, Bibek Bandyopadhyay, adviser, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, revealed, “though initial costs of solar panels was high, the life cycle costs were economic and new materials like titanium dioxide in place of highly pure silicon were being tried that would reduce costs significantly.”

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