EFFECT OF TELECOMMUNICATION SECTOR ON ENVIRONMENT

Telecommunication sector is indeed one of the key utility sectors of every country that aids in the functioning and connectivity of the country’s economy not only internally but also with the outside world. This problem is very well understood at times of any calamity which puts national and human security and business value at risk. With time and development of technologies, we are getting so engrossed into modernisation, that we are slowly forgetting our duties to the environment we live and work in. Though development of the telecommunication sector is helping us in several ways but in turn, is causing several severe damages to the environment and the ecological balance of the world. The rapid innovations are not only causing global warming and other negative environmental impacts, but are also killing birds and animals and are also causing various diseases in humans which were never seen previously. From this article, I would like to deal with the negative aspects of this sector on the environment highlighting on the existing regulatory framework and the flaws in it. It also focuses on the latest 5G introduction and the impact of this sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The daily introductions and latest developments have caused a dramatic rise in the amount of electronic waste worldwide. At present, according to research by Emerson Electric, the telecoms industry alone is estimated to use 164 terawatt hours per year, making it responsible for 1% of all global power consumption and, is also responsible for generating 110.7 million tons of CO2, equivalent to the emissions of 29 million cars[1]. This is causing various diseases in humans like skin cancer, eye problems etc which were not so prevalent in previous times. Though the rural areas are also developing because of this sector, but the cost is deforestation and covering up the agricultural lands. The radiations from the wireless systems and towers in India has become such a highlighted issue that Supreme Court in Bhupesh Sehgal vs. Delhi Development Authority[2]  clearly ordered the deactivation of a mobile tower as it has seen to be causing cancer in the locality where it had been built.

According to “awareness note on tower radiation and its impacts on environment” circulated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), a tower is a triangular / cone shaped metal structure which is more than nine meter in height and on which three or more antennas are fixed where the Antennas are the source of radiation[3].

Even though the Indian Constitution does not have any specific provision for environment protection but, to protect and improve the environment is a Constitutional Mandate which is done mainly by imposing DPSPs and Fundamental Duties not only on the citizens but also on the government. Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the citizens a right to healthy life with dignity which clearly indicates that every human being has a right to live in a pollution free environment in fresh air. Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution is a fundamental duty imposed on the citizens to have compassion for all living creatures which means every citizen of India should protect the lives of every creature on earth and thrive for the protection and improvement of the natural environment and Article 48-A imposes a duty upon the state to protect the environment and the wildlife and forest of the country. Certain penal provisions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 also provides protection for the environment. Chapter VIV (Section 268- 294-A) deals with offences relating to public health and safety. Section 269- Section 271 provides punishment for the spreading of infectious diseases. The Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan in the case of Justice I.S.  Israni (Retd.) v Union of India[4] has held that towers on hospitals and school buildings etc. should be avoided as children and patients may be more susceptible to possible harmful effects of electro-magnetic radiation.

The electromagnetic radiations are being blamed for the vanishing act of the house sparrows. The report by a ministry of environment and forests expert committee has found that impact of communication tower on wildlife birds and bees reveals that the waves decreased egg production in the bees. Studies have shown a drop in the numbers of common house sparrows in Nagpur, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Ujjain and other cities due to increase in communication towers[5]. MoEF had set an expert committee to study possible impact of communication towers on wildlife including birds and bees. According to ornithologist Maruti Chitampalli’s assertion the radiations affect all kinds of birds including the sparrows in the cities & obstruct migratory birds in their flight. According to Dr.Sainuddin Pattazhy if towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years.

5G stands for the fifth generation of wireless technology. It is the wave of wireless technology surpassing the 4G network that is used now. The 5G connectivity is believed to bring a 360 degree change in the field of communication and connectivity in many terms[6]. Though 5G is expected to change the human lives a lot more, but its negative impacts on the environment cannot be ignored. The 5G network will inevitably cause a large increase in energy usage among consumers, which is already one of the main contributors to climate change. Recently, Actress and environmentalist Juhi Chawla has filed a suit against the implementation of 5th-generation wireless network (5G) in India. According to her, 5G technology could bring along exposure to RF radiation that is 10x to 100x times greater than what exists today, and this could have a lethal effect on animals, birds, insects as well as humans. It could cause permanent damage to all of the Earth’s ecosystems. The Delhi High Court dismissed Juhi Chawla’s suit stating that plaintiff  had abused the process of law and imposed a fine of Rs 20 lakh. The fun thing which happened during the virtual hearing was that an attendee had disturbed the procedings by singing songs from Chawla’s movies, leading the court to direct ‘contempt of court’ action against the troublemaker! 

I would to conclude by stating that if the operators wants an increase in the number of customers, then atleast they can share the towers so as to reduce the electromagnetic pollution from spreading so that the birds and bees & other small living creatures can live. If the usage causes more damage to the environment due to the electromagnetic pollution, then the day is not far behind when there would be no living being on earth and eventually the only reason would be mankind &  his technology. 


[1] Environmental Issues in Telecom, https://www.capacitymedia.com/articles/2900706/environmental-issues-in-telecoms , visited on 04-06-2021 at 17:00 hrs.

[2] Decided on 30th March, 2017.

[3] Laws Regulating the Environmental Impact of Tower Radiations in India, Khaitan & Co. https://www.mondaq.com/india/telecoms-mobile-cable-communications/593594/law-

regulating-the-environmental-impact-of-towers-in-India,  visited on 04-06-2021 at 17:15 hrs.

[4] 2013 (4) CDR 1973 (Raj).

[5] Vijay Pinjarkar& Aparna Nair- Electromagnetic radiation affects birds, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Radiation–affect-birds-MoEF-study/articleshow/10487141.cms, visited on 04-06-2021 at 17:51 hrs.

[6] Is 5G Harmful for the Environment and Humans? Kashyap Vyas accessed on 04.06.2021 at 18:09 hrs.

https://interestingengineering.com/is-5g-harmful-for-humans-and-the-environment.

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