Mast approvals ‘water down our rights’

Rooftop cellphone masts proposed in Camphor Road, Kommetjie, pictured, join proposals for cellphone masts on the roof of another Kommetjie house in Seeliger Road, as well as masts across the city. Applications such as these have prompted Earthlife Africa to call a public meeting for all the citys residents to campaign for a change in cellphone mast policies.

It is of small comfort, but those objecting to cellphone masts are not alone and the issue is being taken up by Earthlife Africa which is holding a public meeting at Heathfield station on Saturday to bring about a change in the current policies.

Kommetjie residents are the latest in the far south to be concerned about applications for cellphone masts being erected on roofs – the one at 10 Seeliger Road and the other at 3 Camphor Road, Riverside. This follows many other failed objections such as the cellphone tower erected at Valyland, across the road from a retirement home and schools.

The Kommetjie Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association has also objected to the masts, saying as far as the association was aware, the application processes did not follow the guidelines of the National Environmental Act.

Acting chairperson Patrick Dowling said the effects of cellphone masts were a controversy, that is, that there was no agreement on the effects. That being so, the City had a “duty of care” towards its residents.

“The City seems to be distancing itself by looking only at the visual impact,” said Mr Dowling.

Muna Lakhani, branch coordinator for Earthlife Africa – Cape Town, said Earthlife Africa had regularly been called upon by communities to help when cellphone masts were applied for in their areas.

This had indicated clear trends – a long list, he said. The main ones included poor and inadequate public participation, if any; illegal structures going up with permission being applied for – and usually approved – in retrospect; and a multiplicity of unnecessary towers in some areas.

“There is no thought of protecting the more vulnerable sectors of our communities – children, pregnant women, those who are perhaps ill and infirm or sensitive to such emissions or radiation. I could go on, but much of this is not only going against the policy of the City of Cape Town, but watering down our rights.”

He said for individuals taking on these applications on their own it was hard work and, “inevitably, it is only a matter of time that even those towers that have been denied permission are erected – one such is being constructed illegally in Heathfield as we speak, which already has an illegal Telkom tower against which nothing is being done by council.

“So a group of interested people decided to turn this into a citywide campaign to enable a change of policy that works for people, that is enforceable and in line with best international practice,” he said.

* Earthlife Africa’s meeting will be held on Saturday September 3, from 2pm to 4pm, at white tent, in Galway Road, next to Heathfield station. All who are concerned about cellphone masts and are interested in fostering a change in policy are invited to come. See Earthlife Africa’s Facebook page or contact Earthlife Africa on muna@iafrica.com