Today, our friends in Nepal are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake which took the lives of around 9,000 people and injured 22,000. I was reminded of the wide-ranging relief and recovery activities undertaken by our partners in the Nepal chapter of the Internet Society, focusing on supply of emergency power and connectivity to relief workers. We had just come back from teaching an eventful course in Nagarkot.
Here is what I had said when interviewed by the BBC Sinhala Service the next day:
1. The immediate priorities should be rescue and housing and care of those rendered homeless. Sahana and mobile communication can play a vital role in helping efficient coordination of these activities.
2. From the reports we’re getting from inside Nepal, the communication networks seem to have survived but power for charging devices, supporting WiFi and even keeping the base stations going seems to be becoming a major issue. The people who are now in communication with the outside world and with their loved ones may be cut off for lack of power. Diesel for backup generators is also reported to be running short. Perhaps batteries and powerpacks could be included among relief supplies.
3. Though not immediate, it is very important that a thorough assessment be made of how the critical infrastructures performed during the quake. It is this kind of timely assessment that allows remedial action to be taken to harden the networks for the next disaster.
4. Though not related to ICTs, we need to emphasize the importance of building codes. They must be properly formulated for different regions (to survive earthquakes in Dhaka and Kathmandu; to survive tsunamis and cyclones on the coasts of Sri Lanka and India and so on); they must be adhered to, and they must be enforced.
It is useful (and often humbling) to read what one says in the heat of the moment, five years later. Did we deliver? Yes. On point #2, ISOC Nepal did the hard work (that para was written after talking to Babu Ram Aryal) and all we did was send some money.
It #3 that I am proud of. Using funds contributed by our team and friends and matched with funds from LIRNEasia, Nuwan Waidyanatha worked up an excellent report on critical infrastructure. We have gone back to that report many times. It was well disseminated within Nepal. Thanks to all who made that possible, especially Nuwan who donated his knowledge for this task.