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Current Affairs

Lightning disaster in India

Date: 03 January 2021 Tags: Disaster & Disaster Management

Issue

Lightning strikes have caused 1,771 deaths between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, according to a report published on lightning incidents in India. 

 

Background

The report has been prepared by Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC), a non-profit organisation that works closely with India Meteorological Department (IMD) along with Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), India Meteorological Society (IMS), and World Vision India.

 

Details

  • Uttar Pradesh with 293 deaths, Madhya Pradesh 248, Bihar 221, Odisha 200 and Jharkhand 172 deaths together accounted for more than 60 per cent of the numbers.

  • In 2018-19 period, there were 2,800 deaths and the drop has been attributed to the efforts of various stakeholders, including CROPC.

  • Although forecasts and warnings are made available through mobile text messages, it is not available in all regions. A large number of deaths occur due to this as not much awareness has been undertaken. 

 

Occurrence of lightning

  • Lightning is the process of occurrence of a natural ‘electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud’, accompanied by a bright flash and sound, and sometimes thunderstorms.

  • Inter cloud or intra cloud (IC) lightning which are visible and are harmless. It is cloud to ground (CG) lightning, which is harmful as the ‘high electric voltage and electric current’ leads to electrocution.

 

Lightning as a disaster

  • As per the report, the Government of India and most states have not notified lightning as a disaster. There have always been a large number of animal fatalities due to lightning.

  • Although the Ministry of Animal Husbandry has an Animal Disaster Management Plan, there hasn’t been any compliance pertaining to lightning fatalities.

 

Minimising deaths

  • Every lightning strikes around a fixed period and almost similar geographical locations in similar patterns.

  • Early lightning warning to farmers, cattle grazers, children and people in open areas is the key. Then a local lightning safety action plan, like installing Lightning Protection Devices, is also need to prevent deaths.

 

Fatality trends

  • The reason for death was that people were caught unawares and about 78 percent deaths took place due to people standing under isolated tall trees.

  • It has been observed that during pre-monsoon to initial monsoon, fatalities are more to farmers as they are out in the agriculture field or in orchards.

  • Lightning fatalities in Bihar is more due to lateral strikes than direct strikes. Bihar plains have vast agriculture fields, especially north of the Ganges, and are devoid of trees.

 

Tackling lightning disaster

  • Mapping of lightning is a major breakthrough in identifying the precise risk in terms of lightning frequency, current intensity, energy content, high temperature, and other adverse impacts.

  • With continuous mapping for at least three years, a climatology can be established. This would yield a Lightning Risk Atlas map for India which will form the basis for a lightning risk management programme.

  • There is a need to notify lightning as a disaster under Disaster management rules so that policy focus can be provided to lightning, that will help in mitigating its effects.