Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA)’s efforts to minimize the haphazard erection of communication masts could be frustrated by government’s refusal to co-locate with private entities.
In the recent national workshop on the draft of national guidelines on the location of communication masts/towers it was revealed that cabinet recently declared that government will never co-locate with private entities.
The switch from analogue to digital communication system has resulted in the increase in the number of telecommunication masts being erected in almost any available space.
The congestion of masts has become an area of concern for local authorities as well as land boards who have now resorted to rejecting applications for various operators or even withdrawing permissions largely due to the perceived harmful nature of the said infrastructure.
Although BOCRA’s Director, Technical Services Bathopi Luke insisted that there is still no evidence to link masts or cellphones to any diseases some top officials from other authorizing bodies raised their concerns at the alarming mushrooming of masts.
Luke said they have an Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) measurement system to monitor radiation emission.
“Radiation levels in Botswana are generally low,” said Luke.
However an official from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Lechani Motshwarakgole said despite lack of evidence to link telecommunication masts to cancer “As environmental people we need to be cautious.”
“Why can’t we have just one big facility to be shared by all,” asked Motshwarakgole.
She further gave an example of the scene around Poso House and Megaleng at government enclave where the masts dominate the sky view, and called for a more environment friendly arrangement.
Commentators during the workshop hailed the idea of co-location as a step in the right direction. However there seem to be challenges faced by regulatory bodies.
BORCA officials revealed at the workshop that while Botswana Prisons Services and BDF have shown interest in co-location the Department of Broadcasting Services (DBS) has been indifferent and has never even bothered to attend the consultation meetings.
Private broadcasters Yarona FM, Gabz Fm, Duma FM and eBotswana share one mast under the name “Kemo nokeng.
“I think we should be commended for that,” said Kemo nokeng representative Kenneth Moeng after calling for a sole signal distributor as is the case with Sentech in South Africa.