by Omoruyi Osaretin Samuel
Published on: Jun 9, 2011
Type: Experiences

The establishment of more telecommunications infrastructure such as masts and base stations has raised some environmental concerns, especially in the area of Environmental Impact Assessment.

It has become a part of the environment to see tall masts in different locations around the country. These masts though helpful, are believed to have negative health effects on people living near where they are erected. It is argued that telecom towers interfere with aircrafts approaching landing and feared that towers could fall on people and property. The erection of masts clustered in built-up areas are thus said to be hazardous.

Following the fuss about the hazardous effects of radiation of telecom towers on human health and the complaints about noise, vibrations and fumes from standby power generators at telecom base stations from the populace, I visited Okhiaro Lane, Off Siloko Road, Benin City to inspect a telecommunication mast belonging to a well known telecommunication company in Nigeria. I found out from the security man on duty that the mast is about 8ft (2.4metres) from the closest adjacent house which revealed that the said company did not obtain the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment certificate before the erection of the mast.

On a different day, I visited Idemudia Street to check up a base station belonging to a different telecommunication company which is not as popular as the former. My interaction with the security man on duty revealed that the base station is about 5ft (1.5metres), 6ft (1.8metres) and 8ft (2.4metres) from three different nearby houses.

Yet on another occasion, I visited base station owned by the former telecommunication company but this time at Izekor Street to observe it. I discovered that the base station was 25ft (7.6metres), 4ft (1.2metres) and 10ft (3mtres) from three neighboring houses respectively.

On these three different occasions, I had a tête-à-tête with some of the residence living in the environs of the base stations. There was complaint about the hazardous effects of the mast/base station on the health of citizenry living close to those called masts. They complained about fatigue, headache and sleep disruption. There were also complaints about noise, vibrations and fumes from standby power generators at the telecom base stations and the likelihood of causing damage to property. A particular woman even complained of losing her baby as result of the hazardous effect of the Phone base station on her baby’s health.

From my observation, it was clear that the mobile operators did not obtain the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment before erecting those masts. In addition to non-compliance with environmental certification, tests carried out at the site showed that the noise level was very high compared to what should be obtainable in a residential area. The mast also violated the regulation on the distance between a teleommunication mast and a residential building, as well as the distance from the road.

A 2002 survey study by Santini et al. in France found a variety of self-reported symptoms for people who reported that they were living within 300metres (984 ft) of GSM cell towers in rural areas, or within 100metres (328 ft) of base stations in urban areas. Fatigue, headache, sleep disruption and loss of memory were among the symptoms reported. Similar results have been obtained with GSM cell towers in Spain, Egypt, Poland and Austria. No major studies have been reported in which health effects did not occur on actual populations living near mobile base stations.

From epidemiologic research, persons living in places where telecommunication masts are erected are vulnerable to disorders like cancer, lung diseases, sleep disturbances and even physical disabilities; though according to WHO research, there are no current scientific proofs of health hazards associated with telecommunication masts.

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