States demand that lightning be declared a natural disaster

According to government estimates, 2,500 persons are killed every year across the country after being struck by lightning

March 11, 2023 09:43 pm | Updated March 12, 2023 11:33 am IST - New Delhi

File photo of lightning streaks. Some Indian States on March 11 said lightning should be considered a natural disaster.

File photo of lightning streaks. Some Indian States on March 11 said lightning should be considered a natural disaster. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

A few States have demanded that “lightning” be declared as a “natural disaster” because deaths caused by it surpass any other disaster in the country, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member secretary Kamal Kishore said on March 11. Mr. Kishore said that it was a policy issue and deliberations were required. 

According to present norms, cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves are considered as disasters that are covered under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), 75% of which is funded by the Centre. 

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General, India Meteorological Department (IMD), said around 2,500 people died every year due to lightning. 

ALSO READ | Lightning strikes claim 907 lives in 2022, highest toll in 14 years

Bihar’s Disaster Management Minister Shahnawaz Alam said climate change was responsible for the increase in deaths by lightning, and, in the past five years, more than 1500 persons have died in the State, with 300 deaths being recorded every year. 

The observations were made at the two-day National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction Conference (NPDRR) in Delhi that concluded on Saturday.

Mr. Mohapatra, while making a presentation at the conference, said the frequency of lightning was the highest in northeastern States and in West Bengal, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar, but the number of deaths was higher in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

“Lightning characteristics are different for different regions, the prevalence is more at night and the early hours in hilly States and more during the day in the plains. That is why deaths occur more in the plains,” Mr. Mohapatra said. Farmers are the most affected and the number of deaths are more during the rainy season, he said.

ALSO READ | Lines between natural and man-made disasters blurred: Uttarakhand Disaster Management Secretary

He added that India was among only five countries in the world that had early warning system for lightning, the forecast is available from five days to up to three hours in advance of the predicted event. 

Hitesh Kumar Makwana, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, said a National Earthquake Risk Mitigation programme was in the works with a corpus of ₹5,000 crore. 

P.K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, addressed the valedictory programme of the conference. He asked the NDMA to consider developing inter-sectoral programmes as the context for advancing the application of disaster management initiatives. This is because mainstreaming of disaster risk management would not be possible until there is clarity on applying regular programmes for risk reduction. He also stressed on prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable.

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