Jio’s 5G Testing Killed Birds in India? Viral Claim Lacks Proof
A source close to Reliance also told us that no trials can be carried out due to unavailability of 5G spectrum.
However, we found that the government has not yet allotted the 5G spectrum. A source close to Reliance also told us that the claims are baseless as no trials can be carried out due to unavailability of 5G spectrum.
Former Congress MLA Chunni Lal Sahu tweeted, “खबर फैल रही है कि Jio के 5G टेस्टिंग से पक्षी मर रहे हैं और बर्ड फ्लू का नाम दिया जा रहा है।”
(Translated: It is being said that birds are dying due to 5G testing conducted by Jio and bird flu is being cited).
Journalist and Blogger Mahendra Kudiya also shared the same claim.
The claim was shared on Facebook as well.
Some social media users also shared a 2018 newspaper clipping to claim that 5G testing caused death of 297 birds.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We came across a Financial Express report that said that the government will be starting the bidding for next round of spectrum auction from 1 March. Regarding the spectrum specifications, the report stated that “a total of 2,251 MHz spectrum in seven bands ranging from 700 MHz to 2500 MHz will be auctioned.”
We read the 6 January notice issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and it mentions the same spectrum frequencies.
Another Financial Express article mentioned that the telecom companies have sought clarity on whether 5G can be launched on the airwaves bought through the auction scheduled on 1 March.
The article further stated that the Department of Telecommunications has asked telecom operators to send their queries by 15 January. Post which, the department will issue a clarification.
THEN WHAT IS THE STATUS OF 5G IN INDIA?
As per the December 2020 report of Qualcomm, in which the organisation showed a global snapshot of allocated/targeted 5G spectrum, one can see that India has not allocated any of the 5G spectrum.
The same report also details the status of 5G spectrum in India. For countries such as Singapore and Thailand, it says that 5G has been deployed. For Vietnam, it mentions that 5G trials are underway.
But for India, it mentions that a High Level Forum submitted 5G recommendation in August 2018, but nothing more than that.
WHAT DOES RELIANCE HAVE TO SAY?
A source close to Reliance informed us that the claims are baseless as the 5G spectrum hasn’t even been allotted yet.
Further, a Business Standard report published in October 2020, mentioned that Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani had, in July, announced the development of a 5G solution and said “it would be ready for trials once spectrum was made available”.
A press release issued by Reliance Industries on 20 October 2020 stated that Qualcomm Technologies, Inc and Jio Platforms Limited (Jio) had achieved a speed of over 1 Gbps on the Jio 5GNR solution.
When asked about where the trials for this 5G solution take place, the source close to Reliance said that they took place in US and not India.
CAN BIRDS DIE DUE TO 5G RADIATION?
To understand the ramifications of 5G radiation on birds, we spoke to Dr Radha Krishan Verma, additional director, radiology department, Fortis Memorial Research Institute. He told us that there is no conclusive proof for the claim.
“There is no direct effect but there may be indirect effects, like on the reproductive systems or immune systems. But there is no conclusive evidence of the direct effect.”Dr Radha Krishan Verma, Additional Director, Radiology Department, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.
Moreover, in 2018, Snopes, a fact-checking website, had spoken to Dr Eric van Rongen, a member of the Health Council of the Netherlands and the Chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection about the same issue.
Dr Rongen had said, “The only way one could imagine death of birds as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields is with very high level exposure that results in considerable heating. But the levels that are used by mobile telecom antennas are not strong enough for this to happen. There are maybe millions of such antennas around the world and this has never been reported.”
He had also said that it is unlikely that exposure to 5G could cause bird mortality.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF BIRD FLU?
Since a part of the claim speaks about bird flu, we contacted Reeteka Sud, research coordinator in National Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), who said that the birds aren’t dying due to radio waves.
“Bird flu is an infectious disease. There is an infectious agent involved and that infectious agent does not spread by radio waves such as 3G, 5G and so on. They are not dying from radiation sickness.”Reeteka Sud, Research Coordinator, NIMHANS
In an earlier article, The Quint had stated that Avian Influenza, more commonly known as bird flu, is the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses.
This is said to occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other birds and animals, explained the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
SO... WHAT ABOUT THE NEWSPAPER REPORT?
On carefully looking at the newspaper clipping, we noticed that it mentioned the dateline as 7 December 2018 and the name of the newspaper appeared to be Punjab Kesari.
We then searched for the article online and found that Punjab Kesari had indeed published the article on the said date.
The article is about an incident that happened in The Hague, Netherlands where 297 birds had died allegedly due to 5G testing.
However, several fact-checking organisations including The Quint’s WebQoof had debunked the claim in December 2018.
We had then reached out to Dutch News, a Netherlands-based news organisation, which confirmed that the claim was a hoax. The Dutch News Editor Robin Pascoe had then said: “This is a hoax. The birds were probably poisoned but the tests are still being carried out.”
According to Snopes, the viral post that made the claim had stemmed from a 5 November 2018 report titled 'Hundreds of birds dead during 5G experiment in The Hague, The Netherlands’ on Health Nut News, a “conspiracy blog.”
Snopes had noted that the original report was just a compilation of information from a series of Facebook posts put up by a user, John Khules, an anti-5G crusader.
While it is true that an alarming number of birds died at a park in The Hague in 2018, however, Snopes, after speaking to several sources mentioned “no evidence suggests that any other 5G test ever occurred in The Hague or that a 5G antenna was installed near that park conveniently out of view.”
Evidently, neither is 5G spectrum available in India for Reliance Jio to conduct trials and nor is bird flu caused by radiation.
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