Palm trees to protect against lightning strike


Bhubaneswar : seven days after urging the Centre to declare lightning a natural dis-aster that has claimed a staggering 923 lives in Odisha in last three years, the state government Friday asked the Forest and Agriculture departments to take up massive palm tree plantation as an effective mitigation measure to avoid injury and fatality due to thunderbolt strikes in rural areas. The urgency of the situation can be gauged from the fact that 6,000 lightning strikes in Odisha left 12 dead and over 14 injured in just one day, September 4. Friday’s decision was taken at an inter-departmental meeting convened by Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Satyabrata Sahu. “Inter-departmental meeting held by SRC for undertaking disaster resilient projects under
Disaster Mitigation Fund. @ForestDeptt & @krushibibhag asked to take up massive Palm tree plantation in reserve forest area and other vulnerable districts asa #Lightning mitigation measures,” the SRC said in a post in X. The SRC’s decision came in the wake of many people, mostly farmers, losing their lives due to lightning strikes while working in agricultural fields. As many as 281 lightning deaths were reported in 2021-22, mostly from rural areas. Stating that environmentalists and weather experts have opined that palm trees that give protection against lightning have been felled in large numbers, the SRC meeting resolved that it should go for planting palm trees in rural areas. US Dash, a senior scientist at the Regional Meteorological Centre here said that palm trees which are taller than coconut trees often work as shield against
lightning. “Lightning used to strike tall palm trees and as a result farmers were escaping from
lightning strike while working in their farmlands,” he said, adding that the farmers now are hit by
lightning strikes as they take shelter under trees during rain. However, the SRC observed that people in rural areas were no longer planting palm trees after most of the houses became
pucca in rural areas. Earlier, people used palm leaves and its log in house construction works.
Though the Forest department in 2018 had taken up an initiative to plant palm trees by encour- aging farmers, the effort was not successful.
While 351 people died due to lightning strikes in 2019-20, the number was 291 in 2020-21 and
281 in 2021-22.

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