Madhya Pradesh emerges as India’s lightning hub: Report

  • Instances such as the death of 144 goats and 44 sheep in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi, as well as the considerable number of cow and buffalo casualties in Uttar Pradesh during 2021-2022, are disconcerting.

Puja Das
Updated29 Aug 2023
 The lightning strikes have been observed in high currents of 280 to 314 kilo amperes in Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh.
The lightning strikes have been observed in high currents of 280 to 314 kilo amperes in Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh.

New Delhi: Madhya Pradesh is found to be the lightning hub of India with maximum flashes of 987,095 in 2022-23 and highest deaths of 340 per year, according to the latest report on lightning.

The fourth annual lightning report, which was released on Monday by the climate resilient observing systems promotion council (CROPC) and the India meteorological department (IMD), highlights the country recorded more than 20 million lightning strikes in 2022-23, a 60% increase in cloud-to-ground lightning from 2019-20.

The Lightning Resilient India Campaign, a collaborative endeavour between the CROPC, IMD, Indian Meteorological Society (IMS) and World Vision India (WVI), has effectively extended the early warning services and the knowledge products to stakeholders and communities, which have yielded insights of elevated value, culminating in more meaningful outcomes. Diverse inputs, encompassing scientific and socio-economic dimensions, were harnessed to attain optimal results. Additionally, the Lightning Resilient India Campaign has been instrumental in promoting research in lightning, collaborating with academia and other scientific bodies.

The report has been released with a focus on lightning hotspots, seasonality and timings of lightning for each state, vulnerability of population and infrastructures. It also brings out socio-economic impacts of lightning and offers solutions to it through local resources.

As per the report, remarkable reductions in fatalities, exceeding 60%, have been realized in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Nagaland, serving as tangible evidence of the campaign’s efficacy. However, the persistent challenge of curbing mortality rates remains pronounced in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, accounting collectively for over 60% of the nation’s lightning-related fatalities.

Lightning strikes impacting heritage sites and archaeological monuments have emerged as a pressing concern. Noteworthy incidents like the tragedy near Amer Fort on 11 July 2021, resulted in 18 fatalities, and the strikes on Udaipur Fort and Dwarkadhish Temple spotlighted the need for enhanced lightning protection measures at these culturally significant locations.

“The Lightning Resilient India Campaign paved the way for comprehensive lightning risk management in the country. The customised analysis of lightning hazard for every state demands tremendous efforts in terms of coordination, data collection, analysis among other aspects. The awareness and positive effects were widely felt, and overall, the result has been a reduction in deaths of people and animals, IMD DG Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said. “However, the early warning, forecast and dissemination mechanism through State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMA) and District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMA) to last mile still have scope for improvement. The target should be to reach the last vulnerable and exposed persons and their compliance to the safety advisories too.”

“The language barrier in far flung tribal areas and hilly terrain pose further problems in outreach of the early warning. The lightning alert app ‘Damini’ is being developed by IITM, Pune on other regional languages to meet these challenges,” he added.

Given their status as heritage sites and mass gathering spots, the implementation of preventive and mitigation strategies against lightning is of utmost importance. Recent discussions in the field have been fuelled by the lightning strike on the statue of Jesus Christ towering over Rio de Janeiro.

Analysis and impact atmospheric electricity has been found interesting. The micro zonation of lightning strikes of Balasore and Mirzapur has proved that all lightning flashes are not fatal. Rather there have been select areas and patterns wherein lightning strike shav been found fatal. With the creation of lightning safe shelters and sensitising people, the mortality could be stopped, the report said. “A concerning trend is the escalation in atmospheric electricity, directly linked to the rise in lightning amplitudes. The lightning strikes have been observed in high currents of 280 to 314 kilo amperes in Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh. This phenomenon inevitably contributes to an increase in lightning strikes, warranting vigilant attention and mitigation measures.”

The loss of animals due to lightning strikes also demands attention. Instances such as the death of 144 goats and 44 sheep in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi, as well as the considerable number of cow and buffalo casualties in Uttar Pradesh during 2021-2022, are disconcerting. A comprehensive lightning risk management and prevention program, encompassing both domesticated and wild animals, needs to be woven into the national and state agendas.

The advancements in lightning early warning, the imperative to address large lightning flashes, the protection of animals, safeguarding heritage sites, and addressing the surge in atmospheric electricity collectively underscore the gravity of lightning resilience efforts and the critical need for strategic actions across multiple dimensions.

The Annual Lightning Report 2022-2023 represents an amalgamation of scientific outputs hailing from institutions under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, supplemented by observations provided by ISRO. These insights, thoughtfully presented within a framework rooted in citizen science, have yielded outcomes of noteworthy significance. The achievements arising from the Lightning Resilient India Campaign stand as a testament to the collaborative synergy between the scientific community and stakeholders, showcasing an exemplary approach that fosters the integration of science for the preservation of life, livestock, and livelihoods.

States must formulate Lightning Action Plans, with a focus on season-based resilience strategies. Proactive involvement of Panchayats is essential to disseminate scientific knowledge effectively, particularly given that 96% of lightning casualties occur in rural areas, the report recommended for future action.

Additionally, it recommended strengthening lightning detection and Early Warning systems is paramount, and implementation of standardized, safe, and cost-effective lightning protection devices is essential.

It also suggested to strive for self-reliance in lightning instrumentation, public alert systems, and protection mechanisms should be pursued.

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