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17th July 2023 (8 Topics)

Lightning not a ‘natural disaster’: Centre


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.

  • According to centre, India is among the only five countries in the world with an early warning system for lightning and the forecast is available from five days to up to 3 hours.

What is lightning?

  • It is the natural process of "an electrical discharge of very little duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud," accompanied by a bright flash, a loud sound, and occasionally thunderstorms.
  • There are three categories of lightning-
  • Intracloud (IC), which is flashes within a cloud
  • Cloud to cloud (CC), where lightning jumps from one cloud to another
  • Cloud to ground (CG), where lightning strikes from the ground. This is the most well understood kind of strike and the riskiest to life.

Lightening VS. Thunder:

  • Lightning is extremely hot—a flash can heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface.
  • Thunder: This heat causes surrounding air to rapidly expand and vibrate, which creates the pealing thunder we hear a short time after seeing a lightning flash.

About the Scenario:

  • There have been demands by States such as Bihar and West Bengal that deaths due to lightning be covered as a natural disaster.
  • According to present norms, cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves are considered disasters that are covered under the State Disaster Response Fund.
  • If Lightning will also get included in the list of recognised natural disaster, the victims will be entitled to compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • As much as 75% of funds to SDRF are contributed by the Centre. 

The Data analysis:

  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in the year 2021, as many as 2,880 people died due to lightning.
  • The deaths comprised 40% of all accidental deaths caused by “forces of nature”.
  • While 2,862 people died in 2020, the number stood at 2,876 in 2019.
  • There has been an increase in the proportion of such deaths compared to the total accidental deaths caused by events related to nature.

The National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction Conference (NPDRR) in March has informed that the frequency of lightning was maximum in northeast States and in West Bengal, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar but the number of deaths is higher in central Indian States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

How a natural disaster is being defined?

  • A disaster, as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is “a non-routine event that exceeds the capacity of the affected area to respond to it in such a way as to save lives; to preserve property; and to maintain the social, ecological, economic, and political stability of the affected region."
  • Definitions of the different types of disasters are provided along with a classification system based on their common and unique features like onset, duration, effect (immediate aftermath), and recovery period.
  • Criteria: Major Disaster Declarations can be made for any naturally occurring disaster or regardless of cause, any damage caused by fire, explosions or floods when it is estimated that damages will outstrip local and state resources.
  • Relief can include public and individual emergency assistance and permanent work.

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