Mobile base stations posing dilemmas for some communities

The base stations in dispute in Changhua.

TAIPEI (CNA) — Several communities in Taiwan are grappling with the dilemma of whether they want mobile base stations and their potential health risks in their areas, with two of them set to debate the issue Tuesday.

Ganjing Ward in Changhua County’s Hemei Township will hold a meeting for local residents after base stations used by three major mobile service providers — Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone — were shut down, affecting 1,000 of the wards’ 1,200 families.

Ward chief Chen Ming-huan (陳明桓) on Saturday said the signals of the base stations were cut because a resident protested their location, leading the owner of the site to contact the telecom companies to move them away.

According to Chen, residents will be presented with two options at Tuesday’s meeting — move the base stations out of the ward and leave residents without any mobile phone access, or find a new location for the operators, whose rent will be used as a community development fund.

An elderly resident, also surnamed Chen, told CNA he was more concerned about health issues than having mobile services.

In Chiayi County, meanwhile, National Chiayi University will discuss the construction of base stations at the university, which broke ground in April, with its Minsyong campus neighbor, National Minsyong Vocational High School of Agriculture and Technology.

Though the base stations are being built only 50 meters away from the high school, the university has not discussed the project with the school or local residents, the high school’s principal, Chung Shun-shui (鍾順水), told CNA Sunday.

The project has led to concerns over the health of the school’s teachers and students, and the school sent a letter to the National Communications Commission (NCC), asking it not to issue a permit for the use of the base stations, Chung said.

The university said it had first planned to discuss the issue with the high school as early as 2005, but the discussion never took place.

The base stations are finally being built because of repeated complaints from university students over their poor mobile phone reception, and the project’s location was evaluated by Chunghwa Telecom and approved by the NCC.

The base stations in Pingtung (Photo courtesy of Chang Shi-chang)

It’s a different story in the southern county of Pingtung, where residents of an indigenous tribe are looking forward to the completion of base stations in October, Checheng Township chief Chang Chun-kuei (張春桂) said Monday.

Chang said the project was one of her campaign promises when she ran for office five years ago, and the three major telecom companies finally began building the facilities at a cost of over NT$8 million (US$267,285) in April.

Residents of the village, currently the only one in the township without mobile phone signals, hope the new facilities can improve communications during the upcoming typhoon season and help the development of local tourism, Chang said.