20 residents picket over telco tower next to water storage tank

Teoh Bibi, a resident of Tanjung Bungah, claims telco towers next to water storage units are polluting the water.

GEORGE TOWN: A group of about 20 residents picketed outside the Penang State Legislative Assembly here today claiming their water supply may have been polluted by a telco tower located close to a water storage tank at Pearl Hill.

Spokesman Teoh Bibi of Tanjung Bungah claimed the closeness of the telco tower to the water storage tank would subject it to excessive electromagnetic frequency (EMF) bombardment.

“Published research shows that harmful radiation from telco towers can reach as far as 150m or more,” she said.

She claimed telco towers had been built next to or near water tanks, storage facilities and reservoirs owned by the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA)____ in other places too.

“The end result is water is being bombarded non-stop by radiation. We wonder why PBA gave up its land to telco towers to be placed next to their tanks. Is this safe? Can you show us any scientific report?

Social Progressive Front members Teh Yee Cheu (left) and Chua Cheong Wee (second from left) and concerned Tanjung Bungah residents hand over a memorandum to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow at the state assembly today.

“Or will they only take notice when we take a class action against them when someone falls sick?” she asked.

Teoh said water from the Pearl Hill tank was supplied to the hillside suburb and parts of Tanjung Bungah.

She claimed residents in Pearl Hill and other areas had noticed dead pigeons and that there were fewer sightings of squirrels and monkeys, which were common before the tower was installed.

“Do these animals know something we don’t? Our chief minister, Chow Kon Yeow, was a strong advocate of not having these telco towers close to residential areas. We hope he will do something,” she said.

Later, Teoh and Socialist Progressive Front members Teh Yee Cheu and Chua Cheong Wee delivered a memorandum to Chow at the assembly building.

Another resident, Ng Tien Eng, of Sungai Pinang, said two 18m-tall new 5G towers had been proposed to be installed 60m away from his apartment on Karpal Singh Drive.

Protesters outside the Penang State Legislative Assembly today.

He claimed that although the law required public feedback to be obtained before any telco tower could be built, construction work had started.

He was worried that with Penang being selected as one of the 5G test run states, more telco towers would crop up and affect the health of Penangites.

Ng said he felt “shocked and betrayed”.

“We are not against the rollout of 5G, but we feel it is too close for comfort.

“More than 140 residents in the Karpal Singh Drive area have objected. Since time immemorial, the DAP has been against telco towers. It was only since the last polls in 2018 that things have changed.”

Show proof

In response to the claims, Penang Utilities Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the Tanjung Bungah residents’ claims were made known to him on Oct 29.

He said the telco tower next to the water storage tank was built last November and was given approval by the Penang City Council. It also met the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) standards.

“MCMC had written to me saying that the tower is safe and does not affect the health of nearby residents. The structure also fulfils World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection guidelines.

“The health ministry and the Malaysian Nuclear Agency also conducted tests and confirmed that it is okay,” he said in a statement.

Zairil said electromagnetic frequency, the kind of waves emitted by telco towers, had been tested on biological systems for the past 30 years, with WHO saying that it was safe.

On the issue of feedback from residents before telco towers were built, he said there were no requirements for local councils to do so.

“Even MCMC thinks it is not necessary as it was considered a public facility, like a lamp post or a traffic light.

“However, we are ready to take action if the claims of radiation from these towers can be proven by a government agency or a qualified doctor,” he said.