The cell tower de­bate

Talk of the Town - - News - ROB KNOWLES

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.

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