Why lightning kills so many Indians?

Why lightning kills so many Indians

News: According to a report, Lightning strikes have caused 1,771 deaths between April 1,2019 and March 31,2020 in India.

Facts:

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

Key Takeaways:

  • State Wise Deaths due to Lightning Strikes: Uttar Pradesh with 293 deaths, Madhya Pradesh 248, Bihar 221, Odisha 200 and Jharkhand 172 deaths together accounted for more than 60% of the numbers which are 33% of total fatalities from all natural disasters during the time period.
  • Highest Lightning Strikes State: Odisha had 11.20 lakh plus lightning strikes—the highest in the country—with 200 casualties. During Cyclone Fani, the state saw more than one lakh intense lightning strikes in 2019.
  • Deaths due to Lightning: The reason for death due to Lightning is because people are unaware and about 78% deaths took place due to people standing under isolated tall trees.About 22% of the people were struck in the open.
  • Why are lightning strikes increasing? The report mentions that the lightning is direct promulgation of climatic extremities like global warming, deforestation, depletion of water bodies, concretisations, rising pollution and aerosol levels have cumulatively pushed the environment to extremes.

Recommendations:

  • Lightning needs to be listed as a notified disaster by the Ministry of Home to get required attention in national policy directives and developmental programmes.
  • Implement a local lightning safety action plan like installing Lightning Protection Devices.
  • Need of Scientific and Community Centric approach: National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA) has issued guidelines for preparations of Lightning action plans to states.But the large number of fatalities show the implementation also needs a more ‘scientific and focused community centric approach’ as well as convergence of various departments.
  • A National Lightning Resilience Programme is needed to identify the precise risk in terms of lightning frequency, current intensity, energy content, high temperature and other adverse impacts.
  • Early lightning warning to farmers, cattle grazers, children and people in open areas.

Additional Facts:

  • What is 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.
  • Types: 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.
  • Technology: CROPC has a MOU with the India Met Department (IMD), Ministry of Earth Science(MoES) to disseminate early lightning forecasts which uses satellite observations, inputs from ‘network of Doppler and other radars’, ‘lightning detection Sensors’ among others.
  • Origin of Lightning: Most Lightning strikes originate from Chotanagpur Plateau – the confluence of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand—and extended to Bangladesh to Patkai plateau of Meghalaya affecting other North eastern states.
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