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Mobile telephone networks can alert fishermen to storms off the Bangladeshi coast, that are increasingly endangering lives and livelihoods, according to an article in Reuters AlertNet.

Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, executive director of the Dhaka-based Centre for Global Change (CGC), said that between 140,000 and 160,000 households depend on coastal fishing for their livelihood.

Ziaul Hoque Mukta, a policy manager for Oxfam in Bangladesh, said each of the past three years saw the country experiencing up to 14 storms at 'signal III' levels, indicating dangerous seas.

Thirty years ago, just four or five such warnings were issued each year. An Oxfam study links the increase to climate change.

The CGC and Oxfam, along with CARE Bangladesh and the Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods, have teamed up with Airtel Bangladesh Ltd. to use telecom technologies to warn fishermen 48 hours ahead of impending storms.

Airtel's telecom towers will disseminate warnings through digital telecommunication devices on each fishing boat.

Airtel can also track capsized boats and forward information to the navy. The new system is due to begin operating in mid-June, the start of the rainy season.

Ahmed cited the loss of 3,000 lives from super-cyclone Sidr which struck coastal Bangladesh in November 2007. Too many fishermen had "remained in the sea with a hope that the warning would be proven false", he said.

Link to original article in Reuters AlertNet: