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THE HIMALAYAN TIMES, MAY 31, 2015
Ham Radio: Communication
When all other means of communication fail, this amateur radio can be the best
means to pass and get info especially during times of emergency
As such when they contacted the
ham operators in the Capital and
relayed the message, action was
taken. And there was a response —
“the rescue team reached there,
took out dead bodies three days
later and the road is now open”.
Mul, who realised the importance of ham radio during disaster
preparedness as the engineer at the
Municipality, is happy because “we
got to test if our radio works in
Gorkha Bazaar too and it worked”.
Setting up antenna to run
a temporary amateur
radio after April 25 quake
Photos:Courtesy Aakarshan Dhakal
were the first informant of the condition of 45 people to police affected by the Gorkha earthquake. And
not all the stories were of happy
communication. Some were sad
incidents too — “among these 45
cases, two doctors were found dead
and three girls are still missing”.
In remote Gorkha
A total of 99 individuals have the
licence to operate ham radios in
Nepal but “only some 15/16 people
have been making use of it” as per
Kharel and their presence is only in
Kathmandu and “we don’t have a
But Rabindra Lal Mul, an engineer at Byas Municipality, made an
initiation to provide a reliable
means of communication to the
people of Gorkha. When Mul, who
obtained the ham radio licence in
2013, reached Baluwa, a village in
Gorkha nearly a week after April 25,
the people there were cut off from
all means of communication —
people’s cell phones had no battery, telephone lines were destroyed, the network of Nepal Telecom and Ncell’s was not good too.
Till then the road to reach Barpak,
the epicentre of the powerful
quake, was open till Baluwa only.
In such a terrible condition, Mul
says, the team — that comprised
Indian ham operators — set up a
temporary amateur radio station.
“I had carried a radio set, 12 volt
battery and wire in a handy bag —
and we made the temporary station. The wire was used as
antennae with the help of a bamboo pole.” And the wireless communication network through amateur radio helped them communicate reliably “without any error.
We did voice communication
and it was a like normal
“In the landslide that had
blocked the road to Barpak, locals
informed us that six people had
been buried. Badly affected nearby
villages had not received relief materials other than Barpak. Tetanus
shots were out of stock in a health
camp,” Mul reveals about the problems they encountered in the area.
Back in the Capital, for this
earthquake’s emergency operation
three amateur radio stations have
been set up — at the residence of
Kharel, Brihaspati Vidya Sadan and
National Society for Earthquake
Technology-Nepal (NSET) where
the operators regularly communicated at 14210 MHz. And at NSET,
“it was more like learning the operation” as per Khadga Sen Oli, Advocacy Manager at NSET. It is not
that they have not used the ham radios before — “15 of us from NSET
have got the licence and six
have their own equipment too and
we had been using it every
Post April 25, they used it for the
first time in real disaster and only
one station was operated under HF
(for long distance communication). With technical support from
Indian operators, “we got more experience to operate in international network too”.
From voice communication to
chatting to email, one can communicate in many ways through this
amateur radio depending upon the
resources and devices.
Ham Radio in Nepal
restless day it was — April 25.
As soon as the 7.6 tremblor
rocked the country, people
instantaneously started dialing phones to get updates of
their loved ones — but the
telephone network was a let-down for
many, especially to the cell phone users. By
the time the network started working, the
cell phones were running out of battery and
there was no electricity supply to recharge.
And during this time when worried people were trying to get in touch with their
loved ones through latest means of
communication, Satish Krishna Kharel’s
mode of communication was intact — an
Connecting globe to
Popularly known as ham radio, it is a
means of sending and receiving messages
over a specific radio frequency. It operates
well off the grid and can be set up about
anywhere. “It is the last resort of communication during time of disasters — it works
well when all means of communication
fail,” informs Kharel, a Senior Advocate.
And thus, when everything else was not
working, Kharel, whose ham call sign is
9N1AA, started monitoring the frequency of
the amateur radio.
It was then a ham operator from Gwaliwor, India contacted him to “ask the whereabouts of six Indians from Maharastra”.
Kharel recalls, “We got the information that
they were staying at Tibet Hotel in Thamel
and their relatives in India were unable to
Later in the evening, they went to Thamel
to check and discovered them “behind the
hotel sleeping in vehicles” and reported
back their condition to India.
“After this, the series started,” says Kharel,
while narrating more incidents of helping
people link with one another. A wife from
India called over ham radio to locate the
whereabouts of her husband, an engineer at
Tamakoshi, a mother from Mumbai contacted them to know about her son’s whereabouts in Muhanpokhari and they also
traced a missing Austrian DJ.
Among those on the list, “very few Nepalis
contacted us from outside Nepal” and a
mother from France was one of them. “She
had been unable to contact her daughter as
her number was switched off. And we were
given just her name — Anju Sunar and were
told that she worked in a shawl shop in
Thamel.” Even with such less information,
volunteers searched and discovered her
safe and sound.
As per Kharel, the ham operators in Nepal
mateur radios are quite
popular among hobbyists and Kharel is one of
the passionate users.
He got the licence in 1993 — after
fighting with the authorities for
22 long years. After nearly 200
petitions, regular follow-ups
with the related ministry and
raising issues regularly, he
managed to convince the “authorities to conduct fair exam for
Father Marshal Moran, who
started St Xavier’s School in Godavari, was the first to use it
though — after the Royal Ordinance issued by king Mahendra
in 2015 BS, says Kharel. Though
foreigners were given the licence
easily, Nepalis were denied the
same till 1993. Kharel is one of
the first four Nepali Ham radio
operators who passed the exam
then. Always interested in
electronics, he made his first
ham radio on his own.
And Kharel says, he has talked
with people from different walks
of life including King Hussain of
Jordan. Rajiv Gandhi, Juan Carlos
are some other famous amateur
radio users. “It is fun to meet and
chat with people from different
walks of life,” says Kharel adding
it is helpful in scientific experiments too.
Nonetheless, emergency communication is its biggest benefit.
“Be it hurricane Katrina, Hudhud
cyclone in Orissa or such other
disasters, amateur radios have
played an important role,”
Whether it is a hobby or effort
to fill gaps during emergency situations, these amateur radio operators follow the norms set by
the International Telecommunication Union. Those wanting get
a licence need to take exams
conducted by the Ministry of Information and Communication
— written and practical.
Kharel communicates via his amateur radio
station in his residence at Sinamangal
Photos: Naresh Shrestha / THT
And Kharel says he is ready to
train people in the remote areas
of Nepal along with providing
them with the equipment. “If there
are dedicated people with interest
in technology, we can give them
the radio and help sit for the exam
too, provided that they are
committed to use it for communication purpose during the times
Anyone interested can contact
Kharel: 01-4241540 and Pravin
Joshi: 9851007980 for further details, or mail Nepal Amateur Radio
Operators Society (NAROS) at
THE FIRST ONE: Ham
radio that Kharel
made on his own