Environment & Biodiversity

Lightning is not a natural disaster, according to the Centre

According to a top government official, lightning deaths can be avoided via education and awareness, hence the government is opposed to labelling it a natural disaster.

Why are we debating this?

  • State Requirements: States such as Bihar and West Bengal have asked for lightning-related deaths to be classified as natural disasters, allowing victims to receive compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • a rise in fatalities: Lightning killed 2,880 people in 2021, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, accounting for 40% of all unintentional deaths caused by “forces of nature.”

What is Lightning?

  • Lightning is a rapid and powerful discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, often directed towards the Earth.
  • Lightning strikes occur in massive, moisture-bearing clouds many kilometres tall.
  • As temperatures fall below 0°C, water vapour in the clouds condenses into microscopic ice crystals.
  • Collisions between ice crystals cause electrons to be released, resulting in a chain reaction and the development of a positive and negative charge within the cloud.
  • Lightning can occur within clouds (inter-cloud and intra-cloud lightning) or between clouds and the ground (cloud-to-ground lightning).

Lightning Strike Intensity

  • Voltage and Amperage: A typical lightning flash can reach 300 million volts and 30,000 amps, far exceeding household current.
  • Household current is 120 volts and 15 amps, illustrating lightning’s enormous strength.

Mitigating Lightning Incidents

  • Early Warning System: India has set up an early warning system for lightning, which has saved many lives.
  • Focus on Rural regions: Because over 96% of lightning deaths occur in rural regions, mitigation and awareness programmes aimed at these people are necessary.
  • Protection Device Deployment: Low-cost lightning protection devices must be implemented more broadly, particularly in rural regions.
  • Lightning Action Plans: To manage lightning-related risks, states are encouraged to design and implement lightning action plans, similar to heat action plans.
  • International Lightning Research Centre: Efforts are underway to build an international lightning research centre to improve detection and early warning systems. 
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