On Saturday April 25 2015, Nepal was struck by a huge 7.8 magnitude earthquake which killed nearly 9,000 people and caused enormous damage and suffering.
BHN’s secretariat met on Monday April 27 and decided to send a mission to Nepal to visit the damaged areas, meet with people and organizations and evaluate how BHN might contribute to the recovery efforts.
There was one big problem – no one knew anything about Nepal. So BHN Vice President Terauchi Kenichi, the mission leader, immediately started searching. After a few telephone calls, he was talking to a fellow NTT retiree, Suzuki Hiromichi, who had spent 10 months in 2014 working there as a Senior Volunteer for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The problem was solved.
A proposal was drafted and emailed to the Japan Platform who responded quickly and granted the funding.
On May 2, instead of enjoying their Golden Week holiday, Mr. Terauchi (75 years old), Mr. Suzuki (69 years old) and BHN’s Secretary-General, Yamashita Makoto (also 69 years old) flew to Nepal.
From May 4 until May 12 the team met with four organizations including the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) – a global network of organizations providing timely and effective inter-agency communications services in humanitarian emergencies – and IT-related organizations in Nepal. They also went to five locations damaged by the earthquake as well as four refugee camps.
They quickly discovered that CA (Community Address) systems, one of their areas of expertise are disliked in Nepal for noise reasons and that the refugee camps were being closed down one after another. However, they found that almost 300 of the nearly 500 FM stations in Nepal are community-base stations and that dozens of these were damaged.
To understand the situation on the ground they visited Radio Sindhu (105 MHZ, 100W) which is located in Sindhupalchowk district about 90 kilometers east of Kathmandu. The building housing the station had cracked walls and was unusable. The equipment had been taken out of the building and broadcasting restarted within two days from a small tent. This had been replaced by a larger tent but the staff faced many problems. The mission then started to receive requests from the ETC and other organizations to help solve the problems such as this.
On their return to Tokyo they made a report and drafted a proposal to provide assistance to eight radio stations which was sent to the Japan Platform with a request for 20 million yen in funding. “Some stations need a new studio, some new equipment, and some have problems with their antennas, “ explained Makoto Yamashita.
On June 2 the Japan Platform granted the funding and one expert flew to Nepal on June 8 with a second departing on June 18. The project will continue until October.
Unusually for BHN, this project will not be noticed by the ordinary people in the disaster-struck areas because the community FM broadcasters are just about able to keep their programs on the air. But for those involved in running the stations, BHN is working a miracle by solving many of their problems.
Caption for tent photo: From left to right: employee of Computer Association of Nepal, Mr. Suzuki Hiromichi, Mr. RatnaPrasad Shrestha, Chairperson of NGO running Radio Sindhu, Mr. Terauchi Kenichi, and Mr. Yamashita Makoto standing beside China-donated tent housing the temporary Radio Sindhu studio