Workers are seen at the construction of a cellular telephone antenna tower. File Photo: AP Photo/Mel Evans
Workers are seen at the construction of a cellular telephone antenna tower. File Photo: AP Photo/Mel Evans

Cellphone towers: Concerns raised over health risk posed to Durban communities

By Thami Magubane Time of article published May 12, 2021

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DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality has approved the leasing out of land to be used as sites for cellular base stations despite concerns that the stations might pose a health risk to community members.

Parties opposed to the plan claimed the community had not been properly informed about the sites.

The Mercury understands that there are more than 100 of these stations, including new and existing stations across Durban, to improve cellphone connectivity. In recent years, communities have held protests to call for these stations not to be erected in their areas as they feared for their health.

In a case last year, Glenwood residents alleged in court papers that the municipality had not followed legal processes when it gave permission to MTN to erect cellular masts and that their right to oppose the development had been infringed.

The respondents in the matter were MTN and eThekwini Municipality. Durban High Court Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel dismissed the application with costs, ruling the application had not been launched within a 180-day period as required by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and had been filed “hopelessly out of time”. The judge also said the review application would in any case have failed on the merits.

When the base station matter came before a full council recently, parties were almost equally divided on the proposal, with the DA demanding that the item not be approved by council. The party raised concerns that the impact of cellular sites on residents’ health was not known and they had not been properly consulted.

According to a report tabled before council, the municipality would receive a flat rate, and a rental of R10 000 per month for each cellphone tower site.

It said existing leases and new leases had been determined for the first year, thereafter the lease amount would escalate by 7% per annum for the duration of the lease period.

“In terms of the zoning of the sites, it shall be necessary for the new lessees to obtain the special consent of the council for the construction of the cellular phone base stations and the leases shall be based on this provision,” it said.

“The lessees shall obtain provincial approval in terms of (an) environmental impact assessment, which shall accompany the special consent applications.”

DA councillor Zamani Khuzwayo said councillors needed to attend workshops on the matter as there were concerns that cellular bases posed a health risk.

He said they had received complaints from community members who were worried about their health. “We are not opposed to the item; we just want to have more information otherwise we cannot support it.

ANC councillor Vincent Mngwengwe defended the plan, saying ward councillors in the affected wards had been informed, and interfering with the process would affect council processes.

Last year, municipal departments engaged with councillors in the affected wards, to make sure they were informed.

THE MERCURY

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