State sets up panel to check ‘harmful’ mobile radiation
2 June 2010, Times of India
MUMBAI: Finally waking up to the dangers posed by radiations from mobile towers, the state government has set up a committee to gauge the amount of damage, if any, it causes to public health. TOI had reported in February that the government was reluctant to take any action regarding it. “We have set up a committee of experts that will be headed by the health secretary. We are now awaiting the panel’s report on whether radiations from mobile towers are actually harmful for health or not,’’ state health minister Suresh Shetty told TOI on Tuesday. However, activists who have been trying to get proper rules drafted for the construction and location of mobile towers, are convinced that radiations from these tower are highly hazardous to health. “According to a study conducted by a Swedish centre, radiations from mobile towers can cause migraine, fatigue, restlessness, lack of concentration, fearfulness and skin dehydration apart from cancer. The blood brain barrier is destroyed by the extremely high frequencies emitted from these towers; once the barrier is broken, toxins in the blood enter the brain and that may cause ailments like Parkinson’s disease,’’ said Manoj Londhe, a member of Mobile Tower Grievances Forum, which has taken it upon itself to educate ministers and the common man about the health hazards associated with mobile towers. The various research conducted by the medical fraternity in Mumbai, too, show a gamut of ailments from psychiatric illnesses to hormonal imbalances that are triggered by mobile radiation. The melatonin hormone, for example, which is produced mainly during sleep at night, is responsible for neutralising free radicals that destroy cellular composition and thus increase the risk of cancer. “The radiation cuts down on melatonin hormone by 25% to 30%. It may also harm foetuses,’’ said Londhe. To keep a check on this “hazardous radiation’’, activists have demanded that no mobile tower should be set up on a residential building, school or a hospital. An unbiased authority should oversee the construction of the towers and they should be at least 120 feet from human habitat, activists said.
Pop pills, blame the pollution
5 June 2010, Times of India
Every time a Mumbaikar visits a doctor some where in the city, it could be the environment to blame. Poisonous gases from the city’s garbage dumps or dust and allergens swirling out of its numerous construction sites be it for a high rise or the Metro have been scientifically proved to increase respiratory problems. Its water supply system has enough leakages to bring about an outbreak of worrisome diseases ranging from gastro to cholera. Drivers with a palm fixed on the horn seem unaware that they could increase a bystander’s chances of a heart attack or trigger a bout of depression. The city’s executive health officer Dr G Ambe points out that Mumbaikars need to do a bit more for their environment mere awareness is not enough. On World Environment Day, Malathy Iyer & Pratibha Masand find the city has another major pollutant besides air, noise and water radiation from mobile towers.
In Dr Sandip Rane’s heart-care hospital in Chembur, it is not unusual to come across patients whose main complaint lies more with their lungs. Years of living close to the city’s largest dumping ground at Deonar and breathing in the poisonous gases rising out of the garbage heaps have resulted in chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder that eventually leads to grave heart problem, diagnoses Dr Neelam Rane. Last year, a detailed environmental study carried out by doctors of KEM Hospital proved for the first time that people living in and around the dumping ground were indeed more prone to respiratory problems than other Mumbaikars. But Mumbai’s air pollution story is not limited to the noxious corner in Deonar. It is the sum total of various urbanisation efforts going on across the city, says Dr Amita Athavle, who heads the chest medicine department of KEM Hospital and conducts various health studies. If the corporation found increased air pollution in and around the Bhuleswar area due to the gold-plating units, it found increased levels of particulate matter in Kurla’s air a few months back. The culprit for Kurla’s sudden appearance on the city’s pollution map, feel doctors, is the result of the massive makeover drive: old buildings are being pulled down and new ones being built. Until a few years back, vehicular exhaust was thought as being the biggest contributor to air pollution, but there is now growing realisation that pollution due to the construction industry is a big contender too, says Dr Athavale. The city’s vital stats vis-a-vis air pollution are indeed scary. Consider the environmental status report 2009, brought out by the BMC. Levels of suspended particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide have increased to a range of between 22% to 187% as compared to 14% to 158% last year, shows the report. There also is mention of how benzo (a) pyrene, a polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), a potent carcinogenic compound found in automobile exhaust fumes, increased to the range of 0.13g/1000m3 to 0.54g/1000, from 2008’s range of 0.03g/1000m3 to 0.33g/1000m3. The city’s executive health officer Dr G Ambe doesn’t find the high levels of pollutants in the air worrying but he isn’t surprised. “With vehicles increasing every month on Mumbai roads, air pollution is bound to go up. More than 25% vehicles do not get their PUC checked. Also, with the dust of demolition and construction of buildings all over the city, high levels of air pollution doesn’t come as a surprise,’’ he concludes.
City longs for sounds of silence
5 June 2010, Times of India
People protested, activists spoke about it, policemen fined offenders. But noise pollution in Mumbai has only about marginally decreased. “There is greater awareness about noise pollution, but there isn’t any substantial decrease in the levels,’’ says Sumaira Abduali of the NGO Awaaz who has championed the cause for decades. She is a tad happy that after years of awareness drives, Mumbaikars now do recognise noise as a big health hazard. “Noise over the permissible limits is not just about pollution, it is about being a health hazard,’’ she adds. Over the last few decades, scientists from across the world have conclusively proved that continued exposure to noise pollution not only leads to hearing loss but also to a greater risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, depression, and the like. She is happy that implementation of the time-limit for loudspeakers has reduced overall noise pollution. “But people are always looking for ways to break it. Even the IPL matches made no effort to conform to the high court deadlines. Its authorities could have ensured that the matches finish a few hours earlier than they did, but they didn’t,’’ she adds. Dr. G. Ambe, executive health officer of the BMC, concedes that noise pollution is a real menace in the city. “Mumbai’s traffic is to be blamed for half the noise pollution. For the other half, you have loudspeakers blaring (especially during festivals). If a survey is done, the hearing ability of Mumbaikars will surely have been found to be highly affected,’’ says Dr Ambe. Interestingly, the city still doesn’t conform to the earlier limits set by the World Health Organisation. “A few years back, WHO revised its earlier limits as being too high for human beings (WHO has fixed 45 decibels as the safe noise level for a city, but most cities like Mumbai register levels of over 90 decibels). But Mumbai still doesn’t meet the levels set by WHO in the mid-eighties,’’ says Abdulali. Not surprisingly, Mumbai is the third noisiest city in the world.
Mobile towers posing permanent health risk
5 June 2010, Times of India
Technology has spawned a new health hazard mobile towers, which dot every second building in most cities. While the jury is still out there on the real health threat posed by both mobile phones and their towers, there is a growing movement in the city to highlight the same. Milind Bembalkar, who has been working with the Mobile Tower Grievances Forum for over a year, said, “Just next to my residential building, engineers working for a network provider were one day complaining that they could not sleep and were constantly restless. While there was no proof that their conditions were because of the mobile tower radiations, we realised that there were a lot of people who suffer from a variety of disorders and even die due to the radiations,’’ said Bembalkar. He talks about a lane in Solapur where nine persons reportedly died after developing cancer within four years of two mobile towers being built in the area. Skin rashes, hearing problems, sleeplessness, migraine, fatigue, lack of concentration, fearfulness and skin dehydration are a few short-term problems reported by people living in the vicinity of mobile towers. International studies have also reported bigger disorders caused by these radiations. “International studies show that the mobile tower radiations may not only be capable of causing cancer, but also cause neurotic disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Most of all, prolonged exposure to radiations may cause DNA mutations and thus are most dangerous to foetuses,’’ said Manoj Londhe, another member of Mobile Tower Grievances Forum. However, civic executive health officer Dr G T Ambe says there is no data to suggest that radiation is actually harmful. “BARC has been studying the effects of mobile tower radiations. As far as I know, the radiations can cause problems only over a period of some years. Short-term exposure may not be harmful,’’ he said.
State to check how civic bodies save environment
5 June 2010, Hindustan Times
MUMBAI: The state Environment Department has made it compulsory for all municipal corporations and councils to prepare environmental status reports with a line of action to solve the issues and send them to the government by August 2010. A sub-committee headed by Revenue Minister Narayan Rane and including ministers from the Environment, Transport, Industries, Sanitation and Rural Development departments will look at the reports make recommendations and monitor action taken. It is only when there is coordination between all these departments that we will be able to deal with issues such as dumping of garbage, effluents let out by industries and electronic waste management,” said Environment Minister Suresh Shetty. “Also these problems which are haunting cities like Mumbai will slowly move to smaller places soon.. so we need to plan in advance.’’ An environment status report will deal with issues such as water, industries pollution & control measures, domestic pollution and control measures, air environment, hazardous waste management and specific environment improvement programmes that have been taken up by the council or corporation of an area. If needed we will be providing guidance from the state for compiling the status reports Shetty added. The state has also initiated the formation of district environment committees that will include district officials, local legislators and environment activists who will prepare a vision document for the district which will be submitted to the department. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corpotation brings out an environment status report every year and submits it to the state.
A Lesson in Waste Management
MUMBAI: This world Environment Day non-government organizations clean Mumbai Foundation and Green Commandoes, along with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will revive their Aao Kuch Alag Karein (Come let’s make a difference) campaign to educate the masses about waste management. This campaign, in association with a Bangalore initiative called the Daily Dump aims at encouraging segregation of garbage at source and processing it at home to create manure. The city generates 6500 tonnes of garbage everyday and the BMC has been considering making segregation of waste at source mandatory. Clean Mumbai Foundation has tied up with Anil Ranglani, a Mumbai clone of the Daily Dump. A clone is an autonomous representative of the organization. Daily Dump has prepared a kit, which helps process wet garbage at home. The 5 sq. ft. kit comprises three terracotta containers, a starter kit and micro culture (accelerator powder neem powder to aid decomposition)
Cellphone tower making you ill? Write to the govt.
6 June 2010, Mumbai Mirror
The state government-appointed expert committee, set up to investigate health hazards posed by cellphone towers atop residential buildings, has invited the public to write in about health problems they've been facing due to the presence of mobile towers. On March 12, Mumbai Mirror reported that the government established a committee to examine the health risks posed by mobile towers, and to suggest alternatives. Headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Health Services) Sharvaree Gokhale, the committee includes secretaries of other government departments, besides BARC scientists, and is to submit a report in three months, underlining new norms for such installations. “We have met and discussed how to go about preparing our report. We have already received few complaints which will be put before the experts. We call upon more residents to write their complaints, which we will definitely take cognizance of,” said Gokhale. State Health Minister Suresh Shetty added, “The Delhi Municipal Corporation has established some rules and regulations for setting up mobile towers. When preparing our final report, we will definitely check out the guidelines they have recommended.” Citizens can write to the Health Services Department at Mantralaya, drawing attention on the envelope to “Cellphone towers committee”.
MUMBAI MIRROR SURVEY
In July 2009, Mirror commissioned Delhi-based Cogent EMR Solutions, to measure EMR levels at seven city spots. At five of the spots, the meter readings showed that radiation levels were far beyond acceptable limits. High radiation levels are known to cause brain damage and heart problems, apart from raising a host of other health issues.
Centre notifies 8 cities in state as highly polluted
7 June 2010, The Economic Times
MUMBAI: The Union environment Ministry has notified eight cities in Maharashtra as “highly polluted”. This means that there will be no or very little industrial development henceforth in these cities. These cities are: Chembur and Tarapur in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Dombivili, nashik, Pimpri Chinchwad, Chandrapur and Aurangabad. The state government was informed about the ministry’s decision last week. The ministry has asked the state to take immediate measures to clear the mess. As part of this exercise, the state government has decided to rope in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to recommend corrective steps. The government will soon appoint local committees that will be consulted before deciding on allowing new industry or mines a state government spokesperson said. Tarapur houses the country’s first atomic plant, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, besides a number of small pharma and bulk drug processing companies. People from Tarapur have time and again raised the issue of unchecked pollution. The state government, however, kept looking the other way. Plight of the people living in Chembur is no different. Air quality in this Mumbai ‘s crowded suburb was so bad that it earned a moniker “Gas Chembur”. Thanks to a unit of the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) and other chemicals factories, the living standards continued to deteriorate in the region, a fact that failed to stop the state government from encouraging real estate development in the area. Same is a situation in the neighbouring Navi Mumbai and Dombivli. Uncontrolled industrial growth and gross violation of all environmental norms have made parts of these suburbs not conducive to living. These adjacent towns house the country’s first industrial corridor between Thane and Belapur. Pimpri Chinchwad and Nashik have seen spectacular industrial growth in the past decade with many global players setting up shops there. Aurangabad too has of late been an attractive destination for industries. But the worst affected is Chandrapur. The place is dotted with innumerable open cast mines that have made life of the locals miserable. Despite being a part of the country’s highly forested central province and a few tiger reserves, unchecked mining has brought the place to near ruins.
State Cracks down on pollution industries
18 June 2010, Hindustan Times
MUMBAI: The state government has decided to crack the whip on polluting industries. The environment department has directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to conduct an audit of industries that flout pollution norms and shortlist the most polluting ones across sectors such as energy, coal, mining and chemicals. “We won’t tolerate environmental degradation,” said Environment and Health Minister Suresh Shetty. There are systems in place that are not being strictly adhered to. But we don’t want to police them. Instead, we want to talk to them. Polluting industries will be given up to 40 days to improve their status. “We will not issue closure notices in the first go. But if they do not mend their ways, severe action will be taken as provided by the law, “said Shetty. The department has decided to rope in industry federations and associations from different areas such as Tarapur, Chandrapur, Palghar and MIDC to inform them about their erring members. This is to ensure that the industrial bodies take responsibility of their errant members. In December 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Forest released the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of Industrial Clusters’ report that ranked Chandrapur as the fourth most polluted industrial belt in the country. The Centre has put on hold all industrial expansion plans in Chandrapur and 42 worst polluted industrial clusters with regard to air, water and land pollution across the country. In Maharashtra, six other clusters were among the 88 most polluted belts.
BMC to install its first sewage plant
30 June 2010, Times of India
MUMBAI: To do its bit to avert another water crisis, next week, the BMC will invite tenders to install its first sewage treatment plant. The plant, which will be set up at Colaba and is aimed to be completed by 2012, will treat 40 million litres of water per day (mld). “We are inviting tenders next week. Once the contract is awarded, work should be completed within a year and a half,’’ said deputy municipal commissioner D L Shinde. The BMC has decided to set up seven sewage treatment plants across the city over the next two years. The one in Colaba is the first of these. These plants will treat about 2,600 mld to be used for non-potable purposes. The BMC has written to the Centre for funding the Rs 1,400-crore project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. “Right now, 2,600 mld of sewage is generated in the city. Out of this, we are able to primarily treat only 1,600 mld, meeting the standards of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Boar. After this, the water is let out in the Arabian Sea,’’ said a senior civic official. “But now, if the demand increases, we have to treat it scientifically further for which we have the expertise and wherewithal and then it becomes useful for non-potable purposes like washing, cleaning, gardening and so on. However, we don’t want to treat all the water by this method if there’s not enough demand. We’ll do it once we get the demand,’’ he added.
Sewage To Be Treated By The New Plants
Versova | 400 mld
Colaba | 40 mld
Worli | 300 mld
Malad | 700 mld
Ghatkopar | 300 mld
Bandra | 400 mld
Bhandup | 300 mld