Print Edition - 2014-11-09  |  Free the Words

Once bitten

  • The Nepal Army, in association with the government, can play a key role in the production of anti-snake venom in the country
- KESHAR BDR BHANDARI
Once bitten

Nov 8, 2014-

With the end of the summer, the menace of snake bite has been forgotten but hazards for the coming year remain. Every year, some 1,200 people in Nepal are bitten by snakes and around 200 die. Due to climatic changes, this hazard, once confined to the Tarai and Doon regions in the past, has spread to other parts of the country as well; cases of snake bites have increased in Kathmandu.

Many a time, death is caused due to the inaccessibility of treatment because of the shortage of anti-snake venom; and this has long been an every year feature. Nepal is dependent on India for anti-snake venom serum but the government is willing to do away with this dependency for good. Experts opine that there is scope to produce anti-snake venom in Nepal.

A production unit of anti-snake venom can be established with an investment of half a billion rupees, which will produce enough anti-snake venom required for Nepal and the surplus can even be exported to other countries. The technical side of the production of anti-snake venom requires horses and venomous snakes as a platform. Experts’ envisage establishing horse farms in Manang and Mustang and snake farms in Chitwan and Bardibas.

But, this conservative estimated cost can be drastically brought down if the Government of Nepal does a little homework on coordination.

Using the Army’s studs

The most expensive part while commissioning anti-snake venom is the establishment of a horse farm, which will require ample land, enough horses, and support resources to raise and run the farm. In this regard, the existing Stud Farm of the Nepal Army in Bharatpur, Chitwan can be a blessing in disguise. This Army’s Stud Farm was established in 1985 with the interest of the late king Birendra. It houses a good number of horses with the required breeding and raising facilities. This scribe, being the person responsible for establishing this Stud Farm, is optimistic that this well-established and equipped farm can serve the most important requirement for serum production.

The utilisation of this farm will not only reduce the major cost but also save time for commissioning the production unit. The required snake farm and the production unit can be established in the vicinity of the Stud Farm so that the whole production line could be well-integrated, making the integrated whole an efficient and cost effective one. This feasible and cost effective anti-snake venom production effort, if planned well and implemented professionally, will also contribute to the national economy through the export of the surplus.

The Army will once again get an opportunity to serve the national interest as well as in maintaining the Stud Farm by replenishing the horses required for the Army. Technically, horses that prove unfit to serve the Army’s needs can also be used for the anti-snake venom production, so that the unproductive animal will also get a chance to contribute to saving human lives. This scheme will surely make those working for animal rights happy as well.

This time around we should not wait for the next summer to witness unnecessary deaths from snake bites. Instead of putting past suffering on the backburner, it is time to priorities and start working towards the production of anti-snake venom in the country itself. It will do grave injustice to the nation to delay such a venture, which is feasible and well within the country’s capacity. Trying to do everything when crisis strikes is akin to trying to dig a well when a fire breaks out house. Procrastination is the thief of time and the government cannot behave like lizards forgetting to build their nests for the cold night while sunbathing.

Bhandari is a retired Brig Gen of the Nepal Army and Secretary of the Institute for Strategic Studies

Published: 09-11-2014 09:16

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