With the advent of the Global System for mobile communication (GSM) in Nigeria and other communication systems, there has been an upsurge in the number of masts being mounted across the country, The masts have come to occupy a prominent position on the skyline towering over every other structure. They, in-fact, have to be this way to serve the purpose for which they were erected in the first instance – to .access more easily communication signal. With this development, however, other factors have come into play. Much as, it is considered positive one by many, there are aspects of the communication revolution with negative implications.
One of such issues has to do with the mounting of masts. There seems to be no clear-cut formula and guideline concerning this. For instance, regulations on where they should be mounted and their heights especially in the residential neigbourhoods are clearly absent In some areas what registers is an endless stream of masts, which haphazardly dots the skyline to add to the environmental disorderliness in most cities in Nigeria. Some are even mounted on rooftops. . :
From the town planner’s point of view the whole affairs is attributed to lack of proper planning for the phenomenon because provision for the mounting of masts was not included in the master plan of our cities where they were being planned. We should not forget at this point that one of the goals of effective planning is that people’s safety and health should be guaranteed.
Aviation experts are equally worried. They maintain that masts pose various dangers around the airports especially during bad weather. An aircraft hovering over the airport due to poor visibility has its problem compounded with masts that are mounted around the airport or along aircraft route. It is disastrous if any part of the aircraft makes contact with anything in the process of taking-off, landing or while on air. As a matter of fact, it is on record that there was an aviation disaster in Jos some years back occasioned by an illegally erected mast which claimed many lives.
Towards preventing this, the development control arm of the government planning agency needs to ensure that all ground-base masts are under full planning control, while masts that are erected on building should be greatly restricted because they are not visually pleasant. The relevant controlling arm of government such as NCAM should ensure that arrangements are worked out for details of approval for masts and apparatus on buildings with respect to the different categories of masts in terms of their heights and their functions. Government and the National Assembly should promulgate a law making some places a no-mast areas. These include areas close to stadium, churches, mosques, schools and density populated areas. In 1995, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) mast fell in Yola causing some damage to the surroundings. The luck actually was that it was a bit isolated, far from where other structures were.
Since GSM operations have the highest masts in town, they should know and appreciate the gravity of mounting masts of such magnitude. They should know that putting a mast is a development and that every development must get the approval of the relevant government agency for appropriate regulation and standard. Government has the duty to educate GSM mobile phone companies and the likes to restrict and ensure that mounted masts are environmental friendly. Some of these masts, if they radiate, can affect the health of the people and should therefore be monitored by government to ensure that the people’s health and safety is not jeopardized.
Macdonald Ogu Esq.
(Owerri Based Public Affairs Commentator)