KATHMANDU, Nov 3: The festival of lights ‘Tihar’ has officially begun with Kaag and Kukur Tihar already celebrated on Wednesday. As the people are busy buying goods that are needed for the celebrations, the sale of electric decorative lights is also high across the country. It is believed that Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, visits the homes of those who keep their home well-lit and clean during Tihar. Due to this belief, people illuminate their homes with electric lights and butter lamps to invite the goddess to their homes.
This year, electric decorative lights worth over Rs 350 million have entered the country. The amount is quite less compared to those of the years before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, decorative lights worth over Rs 600 million had made it to Nepal.
According to the Federation of Electrical Entrepreneurs of Nepal (FEEN)’s General Secretary Komal Pokhrel, the effect of the pandemic was seen on the import of electrical appliances as well as decorative lights. He said, “Due to the pandemic, there was an increase in the cost of raw materials and fuel throughout the world. This had an adverse effect on Nepal as well due to which vendors brought less amount of decorative lights compared to the pre-COVID-19 period.” He also said that the pandemic made it difficult for the vendors to go to China which resulted in a low import of electric lights.
Out of the total import of these decorative electrical lights, 80 per cent is from China, 15 per cent is from India while the remaining five percent is from other countries. Sesh Narayan Sapkota, owner of Sapkota Lights, said that Nepal is mostly dependent upon China when it comes to these lights.
He also shed some light on how the price of electrical lights has increased compared to the previous years. “One of the main reasons for this is that the government has increased the customs duty on electrical lights as well.” Sumin Man Shakya, a local resident of Kathmandu was busy buying the decorative lights for his newly opened laptop shop. He said, “The demand for electrical lights is high during Tihar. However, the price of these lights is higher, compared to the previous years.”
According to Sapkota, the business is quite stagnant this year. “Even after the first wave, the business was going in a smooth way. However, after the second wave of the coronavirus, people don't seem that excited when it comes to lighting these decorative lights,” he said. “Every year, the use of these decorative lights used to increase by five to 10 percent. Unfortunately, it has decreased to 17 percent this year.”
Tihar is one of the biggest festivals of the Hindu people in Nepal. Decorative electrical lights have been an important part of the festival as the culture of burning oil-fed lamps in a clay diyo is disappearing. Various types of lights such as disco lights, electric candles and colorful tube lights are used on various other occasions as well. While Nepal is completely dependent on China and India for such lights, it is hard for Nepal to produce these lights on its own, according to Sapkota. “If we try to produce these lights on our own, the maximum cost for it can reach upto Rs 400-500 per ft. However, it is just Rs 100-200 when we import,” he said.
“Similarly, though these lights are meant only for the festive season, this business requires billions of rupees of investment. As India also struggles in this business, it is quite impossible to imagine Nepal being self-reliant in this with the existing political instability,” he added.
However, according to General Secretary of FEEN, Komal Pokhrel, Nepal has the potential to be independent in electric lights. He said, “Despite the fact that we have not produced our own decorative lights, the work of assembling various parts of the lights happens in Nepal itself.” “If only our government gives encouragement for such industry and lowers the tax on the import of the raw materials needed, who knows one day Nepal can even export them to other countries.”
Similarly, Suresh Bahadur Bhattarai, director of System Operation of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), said due to a lower demand and a higher supply of electricity, people can use enough electricity this Tihar. “The power consumption during Tihar can be around 500-1220 MW. Even if it reaches 1500-1600 MW, NEA has enough electricity to meet the demand. One of the reasons for this is the closure of industries and factories during Tihar due to which it is easier to manage power supply in this period,” he said. Bhattarai also urged everyone to use electrical appliances and decorate their homes with electric lights without any hesitation during the festive season.