Concerns arise over impact of cell towers

Author: Simon J. Mone. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • What we know is that these BTSs transmit some electromotive forces (EMFs) that could be hazardous [to our health]. 

Developing countries are still suffering as a result of old technologies. Some, however, seem to be comfortable with massive structures called Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) within stone-throw distance from their homes. 

Due to the financial rewards that the construction of the towers bring, we find ourselves having to coexist with such structures. We rent out a few square metres of our land to these developers and walk to the bank a few million shillings happier. 

The potential effects of BTSs on our well-being come second in our concerns. We often become aware of these impacts when our health suddenly deteriorates, leading us to seek medical attention. What we know is that these BTSs transmit some electromotive forces (EMFs) that could be hazardous. Researchers are still working to determine the magnitude of these emissions. 

Before erecting the BTSs, potential developers should obtain an environment and social impact assessment report and certificate from the appropriate authorities.

It ascertains that the continuous presence of these towers in our vicinity has low risk of harming us, depending on the distance from populations. 

Without these assessments, it will be illegal to erect such towers at locations that the law does not permit. With this, we know that there are regulations of the telecommunication towers.

However, not all these towers comply with the regulatory requirements. By 2020, there were about 5,000 BTSs dotted all over Uganda, yet there are still complaints about the poor transmission quality. So, how many more towers shall we need in order to stop complaints? By the time this happens, no compound will be without a tower. 

At this point, our concerns regarding the adverse effects of these towers being inappropriately situated near residential areas will likely have grown. Due to their cost-effective installation, numerous companies are placing these structures wherever they see fit, as long as they reach agreements with property owners.

Such hazards are potentially putting the health of people at risk. The first impact is that they potentially could fall on buildings during poor weather conditions. Secondly, there is potential that these towers emit hazardous radiations in the form of EMFs that pose health risks. We can mitigate such by erecting the towers at recommended distances. If developers follow the correct procedures, communities will be safe. 

The other impact is the presence of these towers detracts from the beauty of the skyline. Whereas some developed countries use technologies that allow cables to pass underground, many developing countries prefer to use high-rise towers.  Urban centres are littered with tower structures, making them unpleasant to the eyes. 

A more effective solution would involve constructing fewer towers to accommodate multiple companies, as opposed to individual companies, which leads to the cluttering of urban areas.

Landowners often enter agreements with tower companies to host these structures, which remain in place for extended periods, occupying space that could otherwise be used for various developments.

This arrangement necessitates landowners to relinquish their land for such purposes, effectively putting it on hold for the duration of the towers’ presence. This inconvenience highlights the importance of careful consideration for landowners contemplating such agreements.

Simon J Mone is a civil engineer. 
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