In April 2015, a massive earthquake shook Nepal and killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 23,000. The Columnist talked to Uzwal Raj Gautam, Chief Secretariat of the Nepal Media Society and Television Broadcasters Nepal, to find out more about the situation in Nepal and its people after the disaster.
Can you share with us what happened to you when the earthquake struck?
It was just a normal, perfect Saturday in Kathmandu, it was the holidays in Nepal and I was enjoying some quality time with my family on the ground floor of our family home. The earthquake struck at about 11.56am local time and the house started to shake. All 6 of us, including my 75-year-old mother and 11-year-old nephew were shouting out God’s name, we were all scared as the quake lasted almost a minute. Fortunately, there were no casualties or damage. Once it was safe enough, we ran out for open space and heard over the radio that there were many casualties and damage in the city area of Kathmandu where the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the hardest. We remained there for the whole day with all our neighbours and others in the community. It was a terrifying experience and we went to a temporary shelter at the Singh Durbar premises and stayed there for 3 days.
What is the situation in Nepal now after the earthquake?
The earthquake left Kathmandu in a very bad state and many people died because the homes they were in were either weakly constructed or were old. Also, many historically important sites were seriously damaged. Thankfully, the airport was still open, the electricity, water supply and banking systems were not affected seriously. All basic systems and needs were restored within 72 hours with the help of the Nepalese Army, police, locals and other foreign rescue teams. Life is slowly getting back to normal and people are used to feeling small after shocks. Schools are now open and students have resumed their classes. Most government and private offices are also now functioning normally as they did before. However, our economy is seriously affected, with no commercial activity and few tourists as the tourism sector took a hit. I think it will take 3 years for things to go back to pre-earthquake days.
Tell us more about your work and how you and your organisation are helping to build confidence among the Nepalese people?
For the last 7 years, I have been working as the Chief Secretariat of the Nepal Media Society and Television Broadcasters Nepal. I am also part of the association of owners of big private media houses, which produces 8 publications and owns 11 Television companies. Our member organization has started many campaigns to collect donations to hand over to the Prime Minister’s relief fund for quake victims. Although most of our member media houses were seriously affected by the disaster, they are still committed to protecting the right of information for the people.
Beyond humanitarian aid, what does Nepal need? And how can the international community support the recovery efforts of Nepal?
Nepal has requested the international community and donor agencies from all over the world to help and support in re-construction, restoration and rehabilitation. Nepal needs a huge amount of money in the form of a long term soft loan, aid and professional support that will help in this rebuilding effort. The international community can also help by promoting tourism in Nepal and by importing Nepalese products.
How has this natural disaster changed Nepalese society?
The Nepalese people have shown amazing unity, helpfulness and cooperation towards each other. They have spread social harmony and have an attitude that never gives up. Society has changed in many aspects. Like to follow rules and regulations and to adhere to a new code of conduct in the construction of new buildings. We have also learned to face big challenges with unity and support from each other. I hope my experience may help you to understand the current situation. Thank you again for your deep concern and love towards me and to the people of Nepal.
Thank you very much for joining us.
This interview was conducted for The Columnist, a newsletter by Consulus that offers ideas on business, design and world affairs. The views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Consulus.