Residents of Kitase and its environs in the Akuapem South District in the Eastern Region have expressed concern over the indiscriminate installation of masts by mobile telecommunication, broadcasting and Internet operators in the area.
According to the residents, the closeness of masts to their houses was exposing them to direct radiation from the equipment, which they claimed could cause breast cancer, miscarriage, brain tumours and other diseases.
Furthermore, the residents expressed the fear that the masts posed the threat of physical harm to people nearby in the event of their collapse.
One of the masts at Ahwerease is located close to the local basic school. The masts are scattered around residential areas at Kitase, Peduase, Ahwerease and other towns on the Akuapem Ridge.
Some of them have developed visible signs of corrosion as a result of the high rate of humidity in the area but, according to the residents, the operators had not been undertaking maintenance works on them.
Among radio stations whose masts are located in the area are Peace FM, Channel R and Radio Gold. The residents further alleged that the red warning lights on top of some of the towers had ceased functioning, posing a great worry to aircraft in view of the fact that the area was a major route for aircraft, particularly helicopters.
According to the residents, many of the masts had been installed without recourse to safety standards, such as guard wires to give them a firm balance and lightning arrestors to manage the impact of lightning whenever it struck.
Fearing the imminent danger that the closeness of the masts to their houses poses to their lives, some residents in the area are said to have abandoned their homes.
However, others, instead of abandoning their homes, have resolved to confront the menace, recognising that with the boom in the broadcast and telecommunication industry, they may soon be “ejected” from their homes.
“It's important that we kill this bug as soon as possible before it becomes a monster,” the Chairman of the Kitase-Peduase Residents Association, Mr Kwadwo Ayisi-Okyere, told the Daily Graphic on Tuesday.
Mr Ayisi-Okyere was later joined by other residents, including Mr Hans Rudolf Roth, the Secretary of the association, Ambassador Kwame Adusei, a former Ambassador to Germany, and Dr John K. Boah, a metallurgical engineer, and they took turns to explain efforts made by the residents to draw the attention of the authorities to the problem, all to no avail.
They expressed disappointment over the inability of the Ministry of Communications, the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Akuapem South District Assembly to address the problem.
According to the residents, it was not necessary for all the communication operators to install their individual masts, explaining that a number of them could install their transmitters on one mast, thereby reducing the danger posed by the plethora of masts in the area.
They indicated that the probable reason for the operators' unwillingness to site their masts in non-residential areas was the fact that they wanted to avoid the cost of constructing access roads and extending electricity to such isolated locations.
Instead, they took advantage of such facilities in established residential areas. However, a Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services Consultant, Dr E. Amamoo-Otchere, has dismissed the fears of the residents over the health effects of radiation from the masts.
According to him, there had not been any scientific proof to support the assertion that radiation from such installations could cause such health problems referred to and others like low sperm count.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere, who just retired as the Executive Director of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services of the University of Ghana, said the level of radiation emissions from the masts was not beyond what could cause any health hazard, adding that there was a lot of equipment around, such as television sets, FM radio sets, dryers and microwave ovens which were sources of radiation emissions.
The Deputy Director (Aerodrome Safety and Standards) of the GCAA, Mr Paul Kontoh, said after receiving information that some of the red warning lights on the masts were not functioning, the authority requested the operators to rectify the problem, to which they obliged.
He confirmed that the GCAA gave approval to the operators to install the masts, after they had met the required standards for putting up high towers as mandated by law.
Recently, a military helicopter carrying the mortal remains of a former Air Force Commander, Air Marshal Otu, to Adukrom for burial crash-landed and went into flames after its propeller hit a mast nearby.
A few years ago, a mast belonging to a mobile telecommunications operator collapsed on a vehicle at Ashiaman, killing a little boy who was then in the vehicle.