Protest against construction of MTC masts
Residents of the suburbs around Bowker Hill in Windhoek are up in arms over the construction of the base transceiver station (BTS) by Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) in their area. Construction of five new masts have already begun and will continue despite a signed petition, several meetings and an urgent Court interdict against the City of Windhoek and MTC, which compelled them to abandon the proposal to erect a 15 meter high red and white lattice tower.
For over two years, residents of Bowker Hill have argued against the construction of the masts which they feel will pose broader environmental and health issues.The area has been identified as a biodiversity sensitive area as confirmed in the Environmental Clearance Certificate issued earlier by the City of Windhoek.
On 29 February 2012, MTC applied to the City for five mini-BTS sites in Klein Windhoek and for its 4G programme to install smaller masts nearer to homes and users. This was opposed by Klaus Brand, a local resident and noted architect. An interdict was obtained to prevent the erection of the towers. Yet, preparation of the construction sites started last week and is going full-steam ahead. Antennas on three small poles, closer to the edge of Bowker Hill and beaming down on houses directly below, is in line with the new small cell technology now being implemented by the industry worldwide.
However, residents feel that the 4G technology will lead to massive increases in radiation exposure and the health impact is not yet clear.Findings provided by the residents state that the trenches for antennas on three small poles, cover almost 400 meters in length and more than double that in surface area. These trenches, they argue, run across the bio-diversity sensitive habitat of Bowker Hill, as they are being dug into weathered soil crusts and rocky outcrops.
According to the residents, the very educational and environmental value that could have been derived from Bowker Hill in future, as a nature park with lookout points and trails, have been degraded. They maintain that the costs to preserve Bowker Hill are negligible and the area is ideally situated to link up to the planned neighbouring “nature estate” of Extension 4.
They feel that increased property values, tourism potential and “Green City” concepts, that could all be related to job creation and income for the City, have been given up in return for a monthly rental income from MTC.
The Bowker Hill residents question the credibility of the City of Windhoek’s Environmental Division, stating that the City’s Environmentalists should re-examine their approach to their important role as custodians of Windhoek’s environment .