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South Asia should prepare now for the next disaster

Annette Dixon's picture

Nepali man constructs bamboo house

About 9,000 lives have been lost to the devastating earthquake in Nepal on April 25 and the powerful aftershock on May 12. A conference in Kathmandu on June 25 will bring Nepal together with its international partners to build the country back better and safer.

Unfortunately, this is not just a Nepal challenge. From Afghanistan to Bangladesh, much of South Asia is located in one of the highest seismically active regions in the world. More than 600 million people live along the fault-line across the Himalayan belt that runs through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

​Air transportation – the critical infrastructure when disaster strikes

Charles E. Schlumberger's picture
Relief supplies being unloaded from a New Zealand C-130 at the airport in
Tuvalu after Cyclone Pam struck some outer islands. Photo: Nora Weisskopf

When disaster strikes, air transport is often the only feasible mode of transportation for first responders and urgently needed relief supplies. Following an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane, most roads, rail tracks and even ports become unusable, as they are blocked for days by debris. Airports, on the other hand, are remarkably sustainable and, within hours, usually become operational again.  

Kathmandu Airport: Already crowded
before the earthquake. 
​Photo: Charles Schlumberger
The main reason of this sustainability is that runways are on open space where debris of a disaster can be removed quickly. Furthermore, a runway usually suffers remarkable little damage even by a strong earthquake, such as experienced last week in Nepal or in Haiti in 2010. And even if there are cracks and holes in the runway, modern relief aircraft like C-130s can operate safely for some time.
However, the challenges of operating relief flights can quickly become overwhelming, especially for airports in developing countries that usually experience only moderate traffic. In Haiti, for example, more than 74 aircraft landed on a single day following the earthquake to unload supplies. Such traffic poses risks in the air; air traffic control, often hampered by inadequate or damaged surveillance installations, can’t cope managing all arriving aircraft. On the ground, where tarmac and taxiways are small, congestion quickly reigns which prevents the arrival of more flights.

Media (R)evolutions: Mapping Nepal after the earthquake

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, rattling the country and affecting 8 million people across 39 districts, with a quarter of those in the worst affected areas. More than 5,000 people have been confirmed dead so far.

Relief agencies are now in the country, providing supplies, administering medical treatment, and searching for survivors.  In an effort to support disaster responders, teams of volunteers around the world are scouring through thousands of high-resolution satellite images to provide those on the ground with as much information as possible so they can do their jobs most effectively.

Many of these so-called “crisis mappers” are untrained volunteers who compare before and after images of the affected areas to tag buildings that have collapsed, roads that are blocked, and areas of heavy debris.  This provides crucial information to disaster response teams on the ground.

The people of Nepal have also been utilizing other tools to locate missing family and friends, identify themselves as safe, and find rescue and gathering places where help can be obtained.

Here are a few of the initiatives underway:

Everybody Loves a Good Conflict? Radio Broadcasting Policy in Nepal

CGCS's picture

AnOx 2013 alumni Preeti Raghunath discusses Nepal’s radio landscape, situating it within the country’s political environment. Preeti is pursuing her doctoral research at the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, India, on comparative policy frameworks on Community Radio in South Asia. Her research interests include community media for peace, media in conflict and transitional societies, media policy, critical political economy, critical security studies and deliberative policy-making.

Media policies in transitional societies often mirror the nature of governance, and policy making in such nations. Nepal provides a prime case study of a transitional nation whose media policy reflects issues with its governance structures. The country itself acts as a buffer state between India and China, successfully ousted a 240-year monarchy after a decade-long civil war between the extreme-left Maoists and the King’s security forces, and became the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in 2008. Currently, Nepal is mired in repeated attempts to draft a Constitution, and is expected to finally hold a long awaited Constituent Assembly election in November of this year. The impact of the larger political scene on media policies, especially policies concerning community radio (CR) broadcasting, makes for an interesting study.

Nepal is widely credited for being the first country in South Asia to open up its airwaves to community and private broadcasting. The National Media Policy of 1992, the National Broadcasting Act of 1993 and the National Broadcasting Regulation of 1995 permitted the establishment and broadcasting of community radio stations in the country (Pringle; Subba, 2007). In 1992 various actors such as the Nepal Press Institute, the Himal Group, Worldview Nepal and the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ) came together to apply for a community radio broadcasting license. After a five-year struggle, Radio Sagarmatha became the first CR station in Nepal and South Asia to receive a broadcasting license and go on air in 1996 (UNESCO, 2003). With that, Nepal’s successful tryst with community broadcasting became a talking point for activists in countries like India and Bangladesh, who were lobbying for the opening up of airwaves in their respective countries.