Sunday morning’s copter crash that killed five has once again brought into sharp focus the dangers of mushrooming high-tension wires and cell phone towers atop hills on the city’s periphery. The fatal mishap happened after the chopper got entangled in high-tension wires.
In its February 6 edition, dna carried a report highlighting the fear among helicopter operators and pilots about the issue.
With the growing trend among the city’s middle- and upper-middle class of owning a second home, a lot of cell phone towers and high-tension wires are coming up in areas close to hill stations. Sources said developers of vacation homes collaborate with service providers and attract customers by telling them that they have good mobile network coverage.
Similarly, as the country is steadily getting urbanised, the administration is making efforts to supply electricity to these hill stations and nearby villages, thereby giving birth to electricity towers and high-tension wires.
Chopper operators claim many of these towers are at unexpected locations and pilots are taken by surprise, especially during the winter and monsoon when mist and fog lower visibility. Fearing that these may lead to accidents, helicopter operators have raised the issue in their meetings with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on several occasions but to no avail.
Aviation industry experts said earlier this was a problem with hilly areas in the North and Northeast where gigantic electricity towers made helicopter movement dangerous and led to many accidents in the past.
However, the problem is not with the high-tension wires/cell phone towers but with the system.
An official from the state aviation department said, ideally, any construction coming up around the airport requires prior approval from civic authorities and the AAI. The structures are then notified so that pilots have a clear idea of what may lie in their path. However, as these problem towers are coming up on the city’s outskirts, AAI is not informed.
“These structures coming up away from the airport have no guidelines to follow. This is causing problems and needs to be addressed on priority,” the official said.
In contrast, Paras Gundecha, president of the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry, has a different take. “Any kind of structure can come up only within the limitation of law. As far as these cell phone towers have not violated any law, it’s OK.”