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Community Radio is the best tool to raise disaster alarm

14 March 2014

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

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Community radio presents a platform for a two way platform for exchange of knowledge, said Dr Muzaffar Ahmed, Member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority.

New Delhi: Linking Community Radio with other existing media for better coordination during disasters will help in a better preparedness in the wake of natural calamities, said experts during the fourth National Community Radio Sammelan in New Delhi. The conference is being organised by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in association with OneWorld Foundation India.

Margarita Tileva, Chief Disaster Risk Reduction, UNICEF, speaking during the session ‘Community based Disaster Risk Reduction’ said that Community Radio can speak to the community in local language and therefore is the best medium to communicate to the affected people. “There is a need of a long term investment and building the capacity of people engaged in the community radio. Community Radio is crucial for psycho social support,” she said.

Dr Muzaffar Ahmed, Member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, said that Community Radio is the best tool to raise disaster alarm. He also stressed on the need of linking the Community Radio with the national broadcasters to take the message to the national level and vice-versa. “Community radio presents a platform for a two way platform for exchange of knowledge. It is almost impossible for people living miles away from the big cities to gain access to relevant information from the mainstream media. Early warning system must be developed to integrate local knowledge,” he said.

Ahmed said that Community Radio could play a significant role in dealing with natural calamities. Community Radio played a major role in dealing with cyclone Phailin in Orissa, he highlighted.

Ahmed said that Community Radio has assisted communities and nations in dealing with crisis situations by providing reliable information, especially when the traditional means of communication are not working. Measures taken must be grounded in local knowledge.

Ahmed stated that disaster management is a state level responsibility. The Central government can only issue broader guidelines. “NDMA’s priority is how to involve Community Radio in disaster mitigation,” he said.

He explained that Community Radio provides a wonderful platform for a dialogue with the communities. It can play a vital role in creating awareness and also in community led disaster risk reduction, Ahmed added.

Ahmed said that preparedness at local level is the best way to deal with natural disasters and minimise the unforeseen risks brought by the natural calamities. Local Community Radio can play a vital role in disaster preparedness, he said.

Manoj Kumar Das from Radio Sanskar in Orissa said that Community Radio needs to build their capacity to meet the preparedness during the time of cyclone. “We shared content creation with four Community Radio stations in Orissa during the time of cyclone which was of great help in fighting the disaster,” he said.

Manvendra Singh Negi from Mandikini Ki Awaz, a Community Radio from Uttarakhand, talking about the disaster which struck the state last year said that Community Radio played a vital role in airing the problems of the flood affected people.

Negi lamented that the focus of the entire media during the disaster was on the stranded tourists and there was no one to take care of the local needs. “There was a need for Community Radio to provide information to the community. It was a very terrible situation with incessant rains pouring in and people not having any resources to deal with the situation,” he said.

Negi said that the entire area was full of rumours and there was no communication network in the Mandakini Valley or in the Rudraprayag district. “We at the community radio felt that the immediate need was to provide relief to local people during the floods,” he said.

Negi revealed that the disaster in reality was responsible for only one fourth of the casualties, while the rest have been killed because of the information group. Negi also highlighted the role of women in Community Radio, “Women have come in large numbers to associate themselves with the community radio,” she said.

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