The Mercury

Concerns over potential ‘dangers’ posed by cellphone towers


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.

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