Senators to tackle phone mast issue
MBABANE – Hope is not lost on the issue of hazardous radiation from mobile phone masts, as senators have vowed to leave no stone unturned in addressing this matter.
Most members of the upper house in the country’s legislative chambers bought into the idea that restrictive measures should be imposed on companies prior to erection of the masts.
This comes in the wake of the issuance of notices to the Indian government to ban high-frequency mobile phone towers in residential areas, following reports that their radiation posed health hazards to the human race.
Interviewed senators agreed to lobby for legislative initiative that would borrow heavily on the premise that people’s lives took precedence to whatever form of development, no matter the extent of improvement envisaged.
Currently, the Electronics and Commu-nication Bill is pending in the House of Senate, following its passing from the House of Assembly.
"The Bill is yet to be law, so changes could still be accommodated and as parliamentarians we will work on it. We have to be thankful that the parliamentary houses were divided into two, this arrangement allows for the chambers to complement one another," stressed Senator Bhutana Dlamini.
"We are, however, appreciative of the role the media has played on this very important issue, as it touches on the very existence of humans."
He, however, quickly pointed out that, as legislators, they would not be restricting themselves on the issue of mobile phone masts’ radiation but would follow a comprehensive approach to the proposed legislation.
"There is a lot contained in the Bill, and these are technical issues so the involvement of experts in the field becomes inevitable. We need more information before we could endorse any direction," he said.
Dlamini said it would be folly for them to take a back seat and let things be, just because they were confronted with technical issues. "We will ask questions whenever necessary because we want to make sure that people’s lives are protected."
Sharing the same sentiments was Senator Bonisile Mngomezulu who said they would try and follow the Indian example by enforcing guidelines that would give a wide berth to any harm that may be caused by the potentially harmful emissions. "If others have shown the way, what would keep us from taking the same route if the motive is to eliminate risk from our people.
"We have to try every possible means to protect lives," she said. She also suggested that companies should be encouraged to take social responsibility seriously, saying necessary precautionary measures should be implemented, with befitting compensation in cases where the horse had already bolted. Warnings have been issued by experts in the field on the hazardous nature of emissions from, particularly, mobile phone masts or towers.
The nature of the advice has been to the effect that these, when erected, should be kept at bay, with at least a distance of 100m between residential areas, schools, hospitals or any other place where a large number of people congregate.
Studies suggesting that these pose potential harm to people in close proximity of the towers have been conducted worldwide, with most indicating similar symptoms reported by respondents who volunteered in the research process.
Over 10 countries were targeted by researchers. Among these are Poland, Spain, Germany, India, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Austria, Australia and South Africa.
Most prevalent symptoms reported include: headaches, anxiety, swelling in the brain and head, nausea and hearing disorders.
Meanwhile, the Swaziland Environmental Authority (SEA), when sought for comment earlier, said they were aware of such studies but had not as yet been conclusive.
"There are in fact two schools of thoughts: one for the idea that the masts are a health hazard and the other suggesting that the impact of the emitted radiation is very insignificant," commented Gcina Dladla, Information Officer at SEA.
He said his organisation had not taken any particular position but were taking the necessary precautionary measures.
Dladla told the Times SUNDAY that every mast mounted in the country was subjected to rigorous tests before approval.
"At times, we give the relevant companies advice on how to mitigate any possible harm. There are many aspects we explore, which include among other things, environmental considerations related on the impact that would be caused by the erection of the mast on the land earmarked, and also the daily tolerable exposure to radiation," he said.
This newspaper is aware of at least 10 studies conducted in the United States, Australia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, South Africa and Turkey, linking cellphone radiation to significant decreases in sperm numbers, motility and viability.
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