Nepal earthquake silences over 20 community radios

By Binod Bhattarai

Saturday’s massive earthquake has damaged over 20 community radios in districts that have been badly affected by the tremors and many have not begun operations affecting information flow in the districts.

According to Govinda Devkota, General Secretary of the Association of Community Radios (ACORAB), one station in Kavre had minor damages and is back in operation and another in Gorkha had tried broadcasting from open grounds after their station suffered damages. Of all the community radio stations damaged, it appears Sindhi FM has suffered the most.

“They could not continue after about two hours because of the rains,” said Govinda Devkota. There are 27 community radios in the districts from Gorkha in the west of Kathmandu Dolakha in the east.

Nepal has 281 licensed community radios of which 263 were operational before the quake.

Many have suffered major damages such as damaged towers and studios, while others have had their computers and studio equipment smashed. “Many have replaced the computers and are trying to resume operations,” said Devkota. “But those with major damages are helpless because all efforts are now focused on rescue and relief.”

ACORAB says two stations in Gorkha, five in Gorkha (1 commercial station), five in Dhading, three in Nuwakot, two in rasuwa, four in Sindhupalchowk, five in Dolakha and one in Kavre District had reported damages.

Radio Sindhu’s antenna had collapsed and they have an engineer there now to help bring it back in operation. Two stations in Lamjung had their antennas on a hill and both have been damaged. According to Devkota, one station, Radio Marsyangdi, has begun online broadcasts.

The death toll in Nepal’s earthquake had reached 4769 on 28 April. The number of injured had crossed 8500. The UN said 11 of 39 districts are heavily affected and that about 2 million people needed immediate support.

“We need radios now and we are trying to find ways to bring them back up,” Devkota told IMS. “In many of those districts radio is the only means of communication and people need to know about the help that is available.”

Nepal’s many community radio stations are an indispensable source of information for the country’s population. The remarkably high amount of community radios is related to the its geography which is ill-suited to mass-circulation of print media and a low literacy level, particularly in rural areas and among women.