Recently there is a lot of discussion about climate change and its impact on people’s lives. Recently, the trend of storms and lightning has taken a serious shape in Bangladesh. Although most lightning strikes in the world occur in Venezuela and Brazil. But the death rate is higher in Bangladesh than there. For example, on May 18, 2021, 18 people died in heavy storms and lightning across the country including Dhaka. Especially in the districts of Netrakona, Sunamganj, Kishoreganj and other areas, many of whom were busy harvesting paddy in the fields. But this year there is an exception, which many say is the result of climate change.
So what is the change? Recently (Bhadra, 2022) 15 people, most of them agricultural workers, were tragically killed by lightning in an engine-driven house in the fields of Matikata village of Panchkroshi Union in Ullapara, Sirajganj. Among them are three teenagers including two sisters. Everyone went to eat the harvest. Agricultural laborers were picking saplings of Ropa Aman. At that time when it started raining they all took shelter in an irrigation house made of tin. Then lightning killed 14 people on the spot. Another person died later.
Five others were injured. In addition to the relatives of the victims, the local people are also grief-stricken. There have also been incidents of lightning strikes killing large numbers of people at once. Last year, 17 people were killed when lightning struck a group of wedding pilgrims in Chapainawabganj. The bridegroom took shelter in the tong house of the tenant’s tin shed on the river bank during the rains.
Lightning often causes casualties in different parts of the country. In 2016, the government declared lightning as a disaster. Lightning now kills more people than natural disasters like floods or cyclones. According to official estimates, 2 thousand 164 people have died due to lightning across the country from 2011 to 2020. However, it is not known exactly how many people are injured by lightning and how many livestock are killed. The statistics of destruction of houses or trees are not known. Lightning strikes are more common in farmland, playgrounds, or open wilderness. People in these places cannot find shelter during rains. That is why they are easy victims of lightning.
Many people die even by sheltering in dangerous places like tin houses. Many people are still unaware of the dangers of lightning. Many people do not know what to do and what not to do, especially to be protected from lightning. In that case, it is important to increase public awareness about lightning.
Even if a palm tree is planted, one has to wait for many years to reap its benefits. It can take up to 10 years for trees to become capable or mature enough to resist lightning. For this, experts are emphasizing on installing lightning arresters on an urgent basis. The concerned authorities have installed lightning detection sensors in some places of the country. More such devices need to be installed. Lightning arrester devices should be installed in the areas where lightning is frequent, including the Howrah region. In addition, more vulnerable areas should be identified and lightning protection shelters should be constructed.
Now let’s discuss the results of the researchers regarding the risk related to lightning. Research scientists say that there is a correlation between the increase in lightning and the increase in atmospheric temperature, which is proven. A terrible consequence of nature is that in a few milliseconds the temperature of lightning approaches the temperature of the sun’s surface. According to the Department of Meteorology, the amount of carbon in Dhaka’s air has increased by more than 4% in the past few years. The level of dust particles in the air is thought to be 200 micrograms per cubic meter, but depending on the area, 665 to 2000 micrograms per cubic meter were found.
So even though Dhaka city is supposed to be the most lightning prone area in the country, it is not understood because of the electric wire fence. But electrical appliances such as bulbs, refrigerators, televisions, ovens, air coolers etc. cause damage to capital equipment. This damage in turn increases repair costs for the average consumer, which is beyond their family budget. Although lightning is a normal natural disaster, its prevalence is worrying people’s lives and the authorities are very active in collecting data or creating a database about the damage. The information provided by the Ministry of Relief and Disaster Management at the government level, various NGOs, media shows that in the last five years, more than two thousand people have died due to lightning across the country. More than four hundred injuries are reported, mostly in the countryside in crop fields, pond banks and hawthorns. On an average, more than 250 people die in Bangladesh every year due to lightning.
Analysts are blaming people’s ignorance for such a high death rate. They said that the death rate is high due to the lack of proper understanding of the marginalized and illiterate people of this country about lightning. Even during storms, rains, lightning, the people of this country work in the open fields, especially the farming and fishing community of Howr region. The reason for this is the lack of large trees like palm, coconut, betel and banyan trees. Increase in use of metal products in agricultural machinery, drying up of rivers, filling of wetlands, increase in temperature due to destruction of vegetation etc. are some of the reasons for increase in lightning rate.
Again, meteorologists say that the combination of moist air from the southern Bay of Bengal and dry air from the northern Himalayas creates thunderclouds, thunderstorms and lightning. An average of 40 lightning strikes per square kilometer in the country. Since the topic is related to the environment, there is little news about its impact on research, researchers and national policy makers. This is because research is always a non-priority issue, be it in national planning or national budget. Still, some researches have been completed worldwide or in Bangladesh. Global lightning location studies show that the total number of lightning strikes in Bangladesh exceeded 1800 per square kilometer in 2016.
NASA GISS researcher Kal Price noted in his study that climate change is particularly affecting two natural disasters, lightning and wildfires. If the current amount of carbon in the atmosphere were to double, lightning would occur by 32 percent. According to him, the relationship between lightning and air pollution is very close. Most researchers believe that lightning increases or decreases with increasing amounts of sulfur and nitrogen compounds in the air, heat absorption and temporary storage gas levels. A Bengali researcher living in Australia has mentioned that the occurrence of lightning has accelerated due to the reduction of high vegetation or forestry in the country.
Due to the increase in the number of deaths due to lightning in Bangladesh, the government declared lightning as a national disaster on May 17, 2016, but the country’s meteorologists or disaster scientists are not able to provide any information about the cause or remedy. Whereas the government universities of Bangladesh and some private universities have environmental science departments. Whose quantity or quality of research on environmental issues is not promising. Apart from this, there are no researchers or specialized research institutes to conduct research on weather even at the government level in the country.
In this regard, it is known in discussion with one or two researchers that the lack of modern laboratories on the one hand, and insufficient budget allocation on the other hand are the main obstacles to meteorological research. More worryingly, despite the high death rate in Bangladesh, there is no research on lightning and no programs to prevent deaths from it. Limited government activities on lightning are limited to pamphlets and seminars. Due to lack of awareness, lightning protection and no significant government action, so many lives are being lost every year. Due to lightning there is a lot of damage to property. Since there is no way to prevent lightning, we have to be very careful during lightning.
We are now a bit shaky in the urge to save lives. There is a saying, ‘Crocodile in water and tiger in riot’, with another addition ‘Lightning in the sky’. Where will people go now? It is natural to have some interest in the public mind about what the government is thinking or organizing to deal with this situation. The Ministry of Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Management says that according to the instructions of the Prime Minister, it has been decided to sow palm seeds in all the districts of the country. It is said by the ministry that the work of planting a certain amount of palm seeds has also been completed. Now, many people wonder why the palm tree was chosen as a lightning protection.
Agricultural and Environmental Scientist Dr. MA Farooq said long ago, palm tree is a perennial plant, whose life span is ninety to one hundred years. can tolerate etc. But it takes more than 14 to 16 years after seeding to reduce the risk of lightning. But with this plan betel nut can also be taken into consideration, which is fast growing, 50-60 feet tall and can be planted every 30 feet between palm trees etc. This management has benefited in different countries of the world.
However, as a short-term measure to protect against lightning outbreaks, lightning-prone areas of a country should be identified on the basis of meteorological surveys. Currently, from all the information we get thanks to the media, it can be seen that 14 districts of the country are under the threat of lightning. The name of Sunamganj is foremost among them. But who is responsible for giving this message to the people of the area? Of course the local administration. Social organizations working locally have no less responsibility. As the incidence of this lightning is very high from March to May. So campaigns, warnings, social gatherings and miking can be done in various ways.
Things that will be included in it are – taking shelter under a concrete building during lightning, staying away from tall trees and electric poles, staying away from windows, not touching metal objects, staying away from electrical appliances, not staying inside cars, water Stay away from, sit low when there is danger of lightning, use rubber shoes, provide quick treatment to people injured by lightning etc.
Two, it has been observed that the number of working men killed or injured due to lightning is higher than that of women, which is a cause of social concern. It is the responsibility of the government to rehabilitate these families and there needs to be adequate allocation in the budget for this.
Not only this, candidates from this family should also be given priority in terms of employment. Thirdly, more people get into accidents while fishing in fields or reservoirs, especially in Howrah. The risk of lightning can be reduced by installing cell phone tower lightning arresters in these areas, which companies can do as part of their responsibilities. In the last few years, about 4000 men and women have been injured and crippled by lightning. They should be provided with compensation as well as good medical care for their survival. Worryingly, despite such a high death rate in Bangladesh, there is almost no research on lightning and no activities to prevent deaths from it. Limited government activities on lightning are limited to pamphlets and seminars.
Due to lack of awareness, lightning protection and no significant government activities, so many lives are lost every year. Due to lightning there is a lot of damage to property. Since there is no way to prevent lightning, we have to be very careful during lightning. Shelter should be taken under buildings or paved buildings during lightning. In case of frequent lightning, stay in open or high places under no circumstances. It is best to take shelter under a concrete building. Stay away from tall trees and power lines. Tall trees or power poles are more prone to lightning strikes. There is a high risk of lightning strike in an isolated passenger tent, palm trees or large trees etc. in an open area. Do not stay near windows at home during lightning.
At this time, the metal taps, stair railings, pipes etc. of the house should not be touched. Avoid touching all electrical appliances during lightning. If there is a glimpse of lightning, unplug the TV, refrigerator, etc. and disconnect completely. Finally, it is hoped that the government’s electricity department, local government and rural development department will seriously include this issue in their action plan.
Author: Economist, Researcher and Dean, City University, Former Senior Vice President, Bangladesh Association of Agricultural Economists