Note: Cyclone Komen underscored the importance of community radio in reckoning with disaster. Even before the cyclone struck the country, seven community radio stations ensured that timely information reached local communities as discussed in the following story.
Seven Community Radio Stations that operate in coastal region of Bangladesh continuously broadcast 65 hours of programmes to address cyclone `Komen’ in line with Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) of Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The activities were initiated about a week prior to Komen’s onslaught.
Information was provided to the community regarding preparedness for saving their lives and assets by about 425 community broadcasters and volunteers around the radio stations. The stations maintained full time liaison with the disaster monitoring cells at district and upazila (sub-district) levels. They also kept contact with Red Crescent members, scouts, and disaster volunteers at local levels.
This apart, the members of Radio Listener Club carried out awareness raising campaigns regarding preparedness with their community, neighbours and relatives. Considering the importance of the situation, the community radio stations situated in coastal zone namely Community Radio Nalta 99.2 (Kaliganj, Satkhira), Community Radio Lokobetar 99.2 (Barguna Sadar), Community Rural Radio: Krishi Radio 98.2(Amtali, Barguna), Community Radio Sagargiri 99.2 (Sitakunda, Chittagong), Community Radio Naf 99.2 (Tekhnaf, Cox’s Bazar), Community Radio Sundarban 98.8 (Koyra, Khulna), Community Radio Meghna 99.00 (Charfasion, Bhola) were put on full alert. They broadcast special bulletin, PSAs, docudrama, and magazine programmes continually. These facilitated timely preparedness which in turn reduced the extent of possible damage.
The stations were instructed to keep their stations on-air for 24 hours. Generator and fuels were reserved to ensure adequate alternative power supply, in the event of any disruption in notational power supply grid which could hamper the broadcasting.
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) ensured full-time contact and coordination with the coastal community radio stations with support from Free Press Unlimited.
According to Ashish Sen who was in Bangladesh recently, a mapping of the CR Stations in Bangladesh shows that many of them have proximity to areas that are vulnerable to floods and cyclones. Many of the rivers have also in their midst small islands which are virtually cut off from all communication during floods and cyclones. For them, the community radio represents a vital lifeline. The interactive and dialogue based programs of the radio stations nearby, facilitate direct communication between the affected communities and local authorities.
(The story was posted before cyclone Komen struck Bangladesh)