After numerous complaints by the members of the public about the perceived health hazards posed by MTN Swaziland’s Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and telecommunication masts, the country’s wireless carrier as been advised to restrict installations of mobile towers near high density areas.

The areas include but not limited to playgrounds, residential areas, schools and hospitals. Some experts had also said the putting up of telecommunication masts and the BTS devalues property by a whopping 30%. Simply put, they hold the belief that when the telecommunication infrastructure (masts) are set up near a house, the value of that house depreciates sharply.

This has been recommended by Econetworks, the consultancy firm which was contracted by MTN Swaziland to conduct a Strategic Environnmental Assessment (STREA) study for the establishment of BTS or telecommunication masts.

The study was aimed at minimising negative environmental effects as well as health hazards that might come as a result of the erection of BTS and telecommunication masts.

Other than the restriction of installing BTS and masts at densely populated areas, MTN was also advised that it must measure radiation level of certain prominent places and display it for the information of the general public.

Econetworks further recommended to the kingdom’s lone mobile operator that it should create a national database with information for all base stations, their emissions levels and display them for the public.

Moreover, the consultancy firm said the country’s wireless carrier should consider using low power micro-cell transmitters for future expansions in the telecommunication network.

Furthermore, Econetworks recommended to government through the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Swaziland Environmental Authority (SEA), in consultation with MTN, review the current legislation regarding the use  of mobile wireless gadgets with a view to contextualise minimum safety standards.

It went on to say that the parties concerned should ensure all mobile handsets sold in Swaziland or imported from other countries complies with local Specific Absorption Rates (SAR) limits and also ensures that information on SAR values for mobile handsets is readily available to the consumer at the point of sale.

There has been a common concern about the base stations and local wireless network antennas relating to the possible long-term health effects of the whole body exposure to radiation, and that is why MTN Swaziland is envisaging implementing the proposed BTS programme or policy.

This is aimed at avoiding the long-term social impacts on a host of communities as well as the health impacts on the customers if proper decisions are not adopted during the implementation of the policy.

The preparation of the strategy was necessitated by the fact that the MTN Group’s rapid expansion has resulted in an increase in demand for MTN services across the country. Therefore, in an effort to meet this demand, the group is in constant process of constructing BTS sites in every financial year. It was a a regulatory necessity that MTN had to conduct the strategic environmental assessment for the project for approval by SEA.

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MTN must restrict installing masts in high density areas

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