The cell tower debate
THE debate regarding the potential harm in living adjacent to a cellular tower is still raging worldwide, and Ndlambe mayor Phindile Faxi wanted to know if there was any proven evidence that cell towers caused harm at the executive committee meeting, held on Tuesday.
The jury is still out on the question as to whether radiation given off by cell towers is harmful. However, there is ample evidence that the proximity to a cell tower lowers the value of a property, as no one wants to purchase a home in the shadow of a cell tower.
Talk of the Town wrote its first article regarding cell towers and their potentially harmful effects in January 2011 when the late Anneliese Cowley approached the paper for assistance in ascertaining the radiation levels being emitted by the already installed and operational Stewart Road cell tower.
More recently, several Dutch Reformed churches in the area organised a deal with cell tower companies to have towers erected on their grounds, but public resistance in the form of open public meetings and even a silent protest outside one of the churches has had many question the safety of cell tower radiation.
Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association (Parra) chairman Dawie van Wyk has been at the forefront of the battle and, at the council meeting, his arguments for not erecting cell towers in residential areas were included in the agenda.
“The cellphone companies do not do any public participation with the surrounding residents,” complained Van Wyk.
“The companies target places like churches and schools and tell them if they allow a tower they will have a guaranteed income stream without doing a thing.”
According to Van Wyk’s statement, cellphone companies do not have to perform an environmental impact assessment (EIA) if the tower is erected in a residential area. They do, however need an EIA if the tower is erected on open land.
Van Wyk pointed to regulation 93 of Spluma (Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act) which provides for applications to be posted in local media and requires proof of consent of the neighbours. This, he wrote, was not done.
In the past, Van Wyk has stated that he is not against cell towers being erected, just not in residential areas. Municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni said that the municipality required a definitive answer as to what should be done regarding the erection of cell towers.
Faxi said that this was a highly contentious issue that needed to be resolved. He echoed Van Wyk’s comment regarding the need for cell towers.
“I want to make it clear that the municipality is not against the erection of cell towers in the area. The question is where must they be positioned,” he said.