Lightning ? A Natural Disaster?

Lightning – A Natural Disaster?

News: The Union government is not in favour of declaring lightning a natural disaster as deaths caused by it can be avoided through education and awareness.

• India currently has an early warning system for lightning, providing forecasts from five days to up to three hours in advance.
• Some states like Bihar and West Bengal have been urging the government to classify lightning deaths as natural disasters. If declared, victims would be eligible for compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), with the central government contributing 75% to the fund.
• According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), lightning strikes caused 2,880 deaths in 2021, accounting for 40% of all accidental deaths caused by natural forces.

What is a Disaster?
• A disaster is a result of natural or man-made causes that leads to sudden disruption of normal life, causing severe damage to life and property to an extent that available social and economic protection mechanisms are inadequate to cope.
• In India, the criteria for declaring a disaster as a natural disaster are typically based on the guidelines provided by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

What are the criteria for declaring a Natural Disaster in India?
• The disaster should not be primarily caused by human activities or interventions and should result from natural phenomena beyond human control.
• The disaster should cause significant damage, loss of life, or disruption to the environment, infrastructure, or socio-economic activities, requiring specialized response and recovery measures.
• The occurrence and impact of the disaster should be verified and confirmed by relevant government authorities, scientific institutions, or disaster management agencies.
• The disaster should be recognized as a natural disaster by the concerned state or central government authorities responsible for disaster management.

What is Lightning?
• Lightning is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity into the atmosphere.
• It 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.

What are the impacts of lightning?
• Lightning is the leading cause of death among natural hazards in India, killing more than 2,500 people every year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Most of the victims are farmers, labourers, fishermen and children who are exposed to open fields or water bodies during thunderstorms.
• Mainly, rural and forest areas are the most vulnerable due to lightning because of the presence of water bodies and tall trees, with almost 96 per cent of deaths occurring in rural areas compared to urban areas.
• Lightning can also have environmental impacts, such as increasing nitrogen oxide emissions, which contribute to air pollution and acid rain.
• Lightning can also trigger cloud burst events, which cause sudden heavy rainfall and flash floods.
• Lightning can also have socio-economic impacts, such as affecting livelihoods, health, education and tourism. Lightning can also cause psychological trauma and fear among the affected communities. 

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