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Community Projects

Bringing Nepal Back Online: Free WiFi to Bhimeshwar

Residents of Bhimeshwar (formerly Charikot) whose houses were damaged in the April 25 earthquake and live now in tents can now use the free wifi provided by the Internet Society Nepal Chapter.

Today the trip to help Nepal get back online takes us to Bhimeshwar, formerly Charikot, and still referred to as Charikot, the headquarters of Dolakha district about 4 hours driving North-West from Kathmandu. This area is halfway Kathmandu and the Everest region and is much more mountainous and higher than Kathmandu.

Most buildings in Bhimeshwar are standing. It is a provincial town that only in recent decades grew and most buildings are relatively new and in concrete.
A view over Bhimeshwar.

However a number of those collapsed anyway as most of the town is precariously built on steep slopes. Many buildings that are still standing show cracks.


A street in Bhimeshwar.
The three wifi devices we want to install arrived already the day before. The solar panels and batteries that normally power the wifi devices during power cuts haven’t arrived yet although the truck carrying them left Kathmandu hours before us.

The first place where we install a wifi device is on the roof of a concrete building near another area where a cluster of tents is erected. But again there is a power cut and we cannot test it.

Members and supporters of the free wifi project of the Internet Society Nepal Chapter install a wifi spot on a rooftop in Bhimeshwar.

We first visit a local radio station, Hamro Radio FM, which has their antenna on one of the hills of Bhimeshwar. The building with the antenna still stands but the studio is moved to two tents because the building where the studio is located, underneath the broadcasting tower, shows cracks.


Hamro Radio FM is located in a makeshift studio located in a tent on a hill near the center of Bhimeshwar since the April 25 earthquake.

In the tent with all electronic equipment I meet Laxmi Basnet, an 18 year old news reader. She used to be a part time news reader before the earthquake and attended college, but now schools and universities are all closed so she works full time for radio.


Laxmi Basnet (18), a part time news reader for Hamro Radio FM, checks the internet for news in the radio’s makeshift studio located in a tent on a hill near the center of Bhimeshwar.

On the antenna behind the tents a small device is attached the previous day by the local Internet Society Nepal Chapter volunteers. It is a free wifi transmitter and the whole area can now go online for free. However, only when there is electricity, the device is not powered by a solar panel.

A few meters down from the radio tents there is a small tented camp where the local residents live now. This hill has been severely affected by the earthquake; a number of houses collapsed and many are damaged beyond repair and too dangerous to live in.

For checking news updates we rely on the internet, and then we broadcast it via our radio. The other internet services are often unreliable and expensive so the free internet is important.

The previous day and immediately after this wifi spot was installed Gokarna Prasad Bandhari, a reporter for a local newspaper, together with other journalists did online research and filed stories using the free internet access.

Armed with their smart phones and laptop they sat on the hill and worked.


Gokarna Prasad Bandhari, a local news paper journalist (right), shows a photo to Babu Ram Aryal to explain how local journalists used the newly installed free wifi system the previous day.

The school ground is now also a tented camp for earthquake victims. One of them is Subash Subedi (22). Subash sits in his tent surfing the internet using a wireless connection that connects to the mobile 3G network. That is expensive and he is pleased to hear that free wifi is being installed soon.


Subash Subedi (22) a resident of Bhimeshwar (formerly Charikot) is surfing the internet in a temporarily shelter since the April 25 earthquake damaged his home.

Free wifi would be good as using 3G is expensive. We use the internet to inform our self and it is the best way to keep in touch with friends and family.

Photos: © Tom Van Cakenberghe

* If you would like to help the Chapter bring Nepal back online you can donate on our website.

Categories
Community Projects

Bringing Nepal Back Online: Solar Trip

The day started nice with sunny weather but now it is clouded and it often rains. That’s not good and can trigger more landslides.

An hour later a friend of mine, Kumar, arrives in a tiny car. I am a bit surprised we take that car as the road promises to be very bad at places where landslides were cleared. The equipment is loaded on the back seat of the car and I manage to fit just besides it.
Babu Ram Aryal (right), President of the of the Internet Society Nepal and ICT lawyer, inspects a solar panel in a warehouse in Kathmandu.

We leave Kathmandu direction Sindhupalchok, a district that was severely affected, and again got extra damaged in the May 12 quake.

It is after 2 hours into the journey that we see more and more collapsed houses, but nothing like the scale of destruction I expected. Sitting in this tiny car is not fun on a road like this.

On the way to Bhotsipa, a tiny village where volunteers of the Internet Society plan to deliver a solar panel, they drive through Sipaghat where almost all houses have been destroyed when the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal. 

Sometime later, when we reach the Indrawati River, I see more collapsed houses and at some places the road has been cleared of small landslides. Suddenly we drive into Sipaghat Bazar where almost all houses, many made of regular bricks and concrete are leveled, and what remains is clearly too dangerous to live in. Maybe 15% is habitable. Sipaghat is the first village we see that really looks destroyed by the earthquake.

We drive through the main road that has just a single lane cleared from debris and cross the bridge over the Indrawati River. There, at the other side of the bridge, we become stuck.

It’s surprising that we even got this far with this car.

Somnath Bhattarai and his family install a solar panel and battery on the roof of their temporary shelter in Bhotsipa village. The panel and battery were donated by the Internet Society.

We drive back through the destruction of Sipaghat Bazar and the body of the car makes cracking sounds as it drives through potholes and grinds over bricks, concrete and metal still littering the cleared road.

We continue to village two, higher up North. The road serpentines following steep slopes of the Indrawati River gorge. We see the remains of larger more dangerous landslides.

The day started nice with sunny weather but now it is clouded and it often rains. That is not good and can trigger more landslides.

We move a bit further up the road to a place where there is no danger for landslides and wait for a local politician to help us find the next village where we must install the panel. It hasn’t stopped raining.

We’ll be donating the panel to a village 30 minutes walking up the steep mountain slope. There is no electricity and so far no attempts have been there to reconnect that place.

Kumar tries to drive his car up a dirt road that leads to the village but the tires just can’t get any grip and we leave the car. People of the village take over and carry the solar panel and the very heavy battery. The rain has stopped.

Local men of Talramarang, a tiny village that has been cut off from the power grid since the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal, carry up a solar panel and battery donated by volunteers of the Internet Society Nepal.

About 30 minutes later we reach the spot where the villagers want the panel to be installed. It is a big house and I think it is the house of the village leader, but it is also heavily cracked. The village is more a loose cluster of houses dotted on a gentle slope with rice fields. Most houses are standing, but at closer inspection are seriously damaged.

A partially destroyed house in Talramarang, a tiny village that has been cut off from the power grid since the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal.

Kumar and I install the panel, and it all works.

Locals of Talramarang, a tiny village that has been cut off from the power grid since the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal, install a solar panel and battery donated by volunteers of the Internet Society Nepal.

We return to Kathmandu and start to plan our next journey.

* If you would like to help the Chapter bring Nepal back online you can donate on our website.

Photos: © Tom Van Cakenberghe
Categories
Community Projects

The People of Nepal Need Our Help

Updated: 15 May 2015

On 25 April a powerful 7.8 earthquake devastated the country of Nepal. Two weeks after the initial quake, there are more reports of another major earthquake hitting near the town of Namche Bazar, near Mount Everest.

All our Chapter members have reported that they are safe.

These earthquakes already claimed the lives of more than 5 000 people, injured thousands more and left tens of thousands of people without homes and supplies.

The Internet Society has a Chapter in Nepal and has been working on Internet related projects in the region since 2007.

Right now, humanitarian and aid organizations need your help to help serve areas affected by the earthquake. 

Donate

Help bring Nepal back online.  

You can donate to earthquake relief for Nepal on our website. Your donation will go to fund efforts to get the vital communication network in Nepal back on its feet and connecting rescuers, aid agencies and families.

 

Help Bring Nepal Back Online

 

 Find someone

Google’s Person Finder

Facebook’s SafetyCheck

 

Updates From the Ground

UPDATE – 12 May 2015: Early reports of another earthquake are coming in. We are still waiting for updates but to date our Chapter President, Babu Ram Aryal and Bikram Shrestha are safe.

UPDATE – 4 May 2015: Our ISOC Nepal Chapter created an album of photos on their Facebook page about their efforts to help with earthquate rescue operations.   The initial set of photos show solar panels being provided to help bring power to people affected by the earthquake.

UPDATE – 30 April 2015: Our ISOC Nepal Chapter published a post about their efforts underway to rebuild connectivity in Nepal.

UPDATE – 29 Apr 2015: Today our ISOC Nepal Chapter provided connectivity equipment to the Nepal Police to aid in helping establish communications and supporting more efficient earthquake rescue operations (photos available).  Additionally, we published a post from ISOC Nepal President Babu Ram Aryal giving a first-hand view of what life is currently like in Nepal – Rebuilding: Life During and After the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal.

UPDATE – 27 Apr 2015: Our ISOC Nepal Chapter posted this update to their Facebook page this morning:


Hi Friends.
We have had over 72 waves earthquake and 5 epicenter’ in past 30 so hours. We are suffering from lack of backup electricity and network has crippled us to update you all on social site and lack of medical treatment.
Please don’t just pray for Nepal please raise for Nepal. The number of people dead is 3300+ and over 6000+ affected and this is expected to be a lot worse. Our people do not have access to basic needs. The victims are in desperate need so please don’t ignore this and donate what you can, your contribution will make a difference.
Let’s Raise Together….


 

Get Information

Restoring Internet Connectivity in Nepal

Tracking Information Online

Ways To Get Involved As A Volunteer

Here’s How To Get In Touch With Our Chapter in Nepal 

Other organizations active in Nepal relief efforts include:

Do you know of other ways to help?

If you know of other ways people can help Nepal, please leave them in the comments below!

Homepage Photo: "Nepal 2" © 2015 MapBox CC BY 2.0