“It will be difficult to replace them right away, which adds to the burden of the farmers whose income have already been hit by the pandemic,” Rawat says.
Rawat understands the loss because he himself has suffered the death of his own livestock during a thunderstorm seven years ago which killed 20 of his sheep. Since he is now the elected Ward chair, he says he feels the people’s pain and will expedite compensation for Budha and other farmers.
In Kathmandu, the head of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority’s chief Anil Pokharel says that the Ministry of Home Affairs gives Rs200,000 in compensation when a person is killed by lighting, or Rs100,000 if a family home is damaged in a landslide, but for livestock the understanding is that farmers should have been insured.
Chitra Bahadur Shrestha of the National Farmers Organisation says: “It is unfair that farmers are not compensated for loss of livestock to lightning. And it is the job of the government to tell farmers that they have to insure their animals.”
Lightning expert Shri Ram Sharma says other calamities like landslides, floods and earthquakes get all the attention in Nepal, and despite the loss of life and cost to farmers, lightning is often ignored. “It is seen as an act of god, and since most of those affected are poor villagers, there is no policy to compensate the farmers for the losses,” Sharma explained. “For a country that has such a high exposure to lightning risk, there should be more study, research and thunderstorm forecasting.”
The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology has installed a series of Doppler weather radars in Surkhet, Hetauda and Udaypur to detect supercells and forecast major thunderstorm activity, but that information needs to get to farmers in time.