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Community Radio: Means of Life line During the Crises in Nepal

The history of Nepal is general considered to have begun in 1768-69 B.S., when Prithivi Narayan Shah, the king of Gorkha, unified Nepal. The total area of Nepal at present is 147,181 Sq. Km. with a rectangular shape. It is about 192 Km. wide from North to South and 880 Km. long from East to West. Nepal is located between 26022' and 30027' north latitudes and 8004' and 88012' east longitudes and has four vegetation zones viz, tropical, deciduous, monsoon forest, subtropical mixed evergreen forest. It is a country with great natural as well as socio-cultural diversities. The silvery peaks of the Himalayas at the North have Mt. Everest (8,848 meter), the highest peak of the world. Nepal is one of the earthquake prone country. If estimates are to be believed, a citizen in Nepal is more likely to be killed by an earthquake as compared to any civilian in the world. An earthquake of 8.4 magnitude had hit the country in the year 1934. Another

recent earthquake of 7.9 magnitude that hit the country on April 25, caused immense damage to life and property. The iconic Dharahara tower was also destroyed due to the quake.

I was one of the eye witness of 2015 April devastation, which took more than 10, 000 lives, made millions injured, collapsed shelters for many and left forever psychological fear, tragedy and pain. That was Saturday, I was working in laptop in the living room of my home. My son was in his room and my wife was travelling for Manag district the hilly road, where she is working as Register in district court. It was 11.56 AM. I felt something shaking in-fact, my seat was shaking, and I heard some sound of broken glasses in the kitchen, television set felt down on the ground and my son sought-" Dad !earthquake". I replied this is powerful earthquake let us run away. On contrary, he warned me, "Dad don't run' just stand below the wooden frame of the door". I just ran towards my door and my son was in his door. I wanted to have tight hug , and kiss him but the ground floor of the 3 stories concrete building was shaking and such was way we just wishing for the good ending. We had only wish with god "Oh! god, save us' save my baby, my sweet heart". It was just for 55 second but we felt it was more than a year. I was just looking the face of my son and he was mine. I remembered the poem furthest distance of life of Rabindra Nath Tagore. During that 55 second, I could remember my parents, relatives, all dearest and nearest. When it stopped we ran out in yard and we saw people were running out of their home. 
Each and everyone were worried about their family members who were not at home. I tried to call my wife Rita, who was travelling hilly road of Manang. The phone line was busy, I tried to call my parents in chitwan, that was also busy and by the way my mobile rang and I saw the number that was my beloved wife and she spoke without breathing," You know, you know, we felt big shock, big stone felt from mountain and went down aside our vehicle, we are safe. How about you all?" I said, "we felt huge shock and now we came out of home. Our home is safe and our colony is safe but the Dharahara, and many houses, temples are collapsed, we can sense huge loss of live and property. Be safe, and keep in communicating" I was just saying this again after shock came and again we sought and ran in open areas. I tried to contact ACORAB but couldn't be possible. The line was too busy. Sometimes mobile rang and was able to talk. Many people from all over the country called and asked the situation. That situation taught us the importance of human relations, meaning of closeness, and how we are connecting emotionally.

After few hours I could able to contact My friend Mr. Hom Pathak at Dolkha but he shared very sad news that he lost her mother due to the earthquake. I, my family and all ACORAB members and three former prime ministers were gathered in Dolkha on August, 2014 for ACORAB general assembly. We enjoyed with the people's hospitality, foods, hotel, and nature of beauty but Mr. Pathak with immense pain said "Everything in Dolkha was collapsed and many people died and injured".

I, my friends and relatives were in great confusion. What to do? People all were in outside the home and managing for tent and shelter for night stay. No one wants to go inside the houses. One another news of loses are coming in mobile. Various rumor about another powerful earthquake was circulated in a wink. The situation became terrible and hopeless. We came inside the home and tried to open the TV but power was off. We Keep tried to call friends but it was very difficult to contact. I became able to contact Mr. Lil Chand in ACORAB at 7.30 PM and he was in CIN studio on 5th floor, wearing helmet and broadcasting live information. He was connecting to the people from different districts and circulating the information. Since all the means of information was damaged, people wanted to have new and updated information.

In this regards, as an umbrella organization of community radios, we felt our responsibility to support community radios for broadcast. During the disaster, we found information is the most important need, which need to be supplied uninterruptedly. In this regard, the efforts of the Radio Nepal was praiseworthy. Radio Nepal started live broadcasting and they started broadcasting for 24 hours. Sunday we assessed the lost and found 58 community radios heavily affected in most affected 14 districts and stopped from on air. ACROAB coordinated with the entire agencies who are working on radio and communication issues. We took strategy to bring one radio in operation in each affected districts and ask supporting organization to support accordingly.

In the affected areas, community radio FM was the only means of communication. We found two important factors for communication. First, those people who lost their houses, they also lost their radio sets. Second, The Medium wave and short wave broadcasting of Radio Nepal was not effectively reaching to the listeners as they have only FM band radios or people listen the radio in mobile sets. Immediately ACORAB took the initiation to provide the radio sets and distributed radio sets in most effective districts. All the staff and board members paid for the radio sets and we also started to rely the Radio Nepal through our satellite and ask all community radios who were in operation to broadcast the radio Nepal's program.

Many Community Radio stations like, Radio Gorkha, Radio Sindhu, Radio Sunkoshi, Radio Melamchi, Radio Dhading, Radio Lamjung, Hamro FM, Radio Rasuwa, and many other radios started broadcasting from the open yard just after 2nd day of the earthquake. Radios became the only source of the information. We continually broadcasted updated information, government policies, rescue strategy from CIN studio. Local people used to call to the radio stations and radio stations broadcast all the situation of the affected areas. The local administration also support community radios for operation.

We found our reporters and journalist need to be more sensitive towards the disaster reporting. Since Nepal was the hub of the many international media, they focused only on the negative parts of the disasters. The excessive manipulation of negative side has created frustration towards the some international media. If people open the TV, the impression used to be very tough and hopeless. However, the situation was not like that. We ask our reporter to focuses on life giving forces and ask people to have passion, increase the mutual collaboration and cooperation with each other. Nepal got good support from international community for rescue and relief. However, we found lack of good coordination from the government side to effective delivery. The humanitarian spirits of Nepalese youth sprout up in such a way the urban youth walked long to serve the affected communities in the rural areas. Social Media also played positive roles in urban areas. Right after the rescue phases, ACORAB conducted series of training for disaster reporting to the radio journalists. After a week we analyzed the all radio contents and found a dare need of life line program and started the live skill based radio program called "Jivan Raksha" (Life Saving). This program is very popular. The government and other civil society organization have recognized the important roles of community radios in that tough situations. 

If we talked about the positive aspects of the disaster, the April disaster helped to connect the entire society on humanitarian ground. Mutual cooperation and collaboration was increased. The long political deadlock ended and new consensus aroused among the political parties and new constitution is circulated. In spite of blind supports of the people, unfortunately the government move towards the reconstruction and rehabilitation is in very slow pace. 

ACORAB in partnership with UNESCO, UNICEF Nepal, OXFAM Nepal, The Asia Foundation and AMARC celebrated the world radio day on 13th February and shared experiences, how ACORAB and community radios worked in disasters. Around three hundred radio journalists and media activists have participated in the radio summit and discussed about the role of radio in times of disaster and emergencies. The celebration of radio day was started by organizing radio rally in the Kathmandu city. Inauguration session, panel discussion, plenary discussion, breakout sessions and groups presentation-sharing were other activities conducted to productively celebrate this auspicious day. In front of right honorable communication ministers senior government/non-government officials, policy makers and development experts, participants of the summit have shared their stories of struggle to serve people during recent devastating earthquake and aftershocks. At the end of the day, radio summit passed Kathmandu declaration paper by incorporating the findings brought by the whole day’s discussion in various formats. Total four thematic breakout sessions were conducted to explore the role community radios on five thematic issues during the disaster such as child and women, rumor tracking, food security, community mediation and; community radio policies in Nepal.

This earthquake has taught us many important lessons for humanitarian and social cohesion issues. Nepalese society is feudalistic and exclusive. The ethnocentrism, caste system, economic class ranking, political power ranking are high in our culture. Nevertheless, during the disaster period, the sense of equality and a kind of inclusive thinking and behavior, were practically emerged. Due to this, long political deadlock ends and Nepal got a new constitutions. A sense of volunteerism is emerged and people walked long for contribution. However, the government efficiency, political parties visions and donor politics still are in questionable. In this situation, the role of community media found very crucial to provide the actual and credible information to the grass-root level people. The entire community radios have been working to create the new hope in people. Only life skill and innovating programs have been given emphasis in community radios. Community radios have been connecting local communities to policy makers. The role of ACORAB and community radios will be more effective and impact for reconstruction and new constitution implementation in the year to come. We wish further betterment of Nepalese society and entire human kinds and globe on the auspicious occasion of upcoming Nepalese New year BS. 2073.

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Comment by Ram Chandra Lamichhane on May 24, 2017 at 4:05am

Thank you Rittu.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on May 17, 2016 at 4:34am

Thank you for sharing how community radios are bridging the gap between communities and policy makers (like L for link in SALT)

Congratulations on your great work!

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