IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


17th July, 2023 Geography

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The Union government's stance on declaring lightning as a natural disaster in India.


  • The Union government is against declaring lightning as a natural disaster, citing the potential for prevention through education and awareness.
  • India has an early warning system for lightning, providing forecasts ranging from five days to three hours.

State Demands and Compensation

  • States like Bihar and West Bengal have requested that deaths due to lightning be recognized as a natural disaster.
  • The victims would then be eligible for compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), a majority of which is contributed by the central government.

Existing Classification of Disasters

  • Present norms consider cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost, and cold waves as covered disasters under the SDRF.

Lightning Deaths in Bihar

  • Bihar's Disaster Management Minister highlights the vulnerability of the state to lightning-related fatalities.
  • More than 1,500 deaths have occurred in Bihar due to lightning in the past five years, with 107 deaths reported till July 6, 2023.
  • Climate change is considered a possible factor contributing to the increasing number of lightning-related deaths.

Discussions at the Ministerial Meeting

  • The issue of lightning deaths was raised at a meeting of Ministers of Disaster Management of States, chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
  • Bihar's Minister emphasized the distribution of timely alerts and awareness pamphlets at the local level to educate people about lightning risks.

Lightning Deaths and National Statistics

  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), lightning caused 40% of all accidental deaths attributed to "forces of nature" in 2021.
  • The proportion of lightning-related deaths has been increasing over the years.
  • In 2003, deaths due to lightning constituted only 0.2% of all deaths caused by forces of nature.

Regional Patterns of Lightning and Fatalities

  • Northeast states, West Bengal, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Bihar experience a high frequency of lightning strikes.
  • However, central Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha have higher numbers of lightning-related deaths.

About Lightning

  • Lightning is a natural atmospheric discharge of electricity that occurs during thunderstorms.
  • It is a visible and highly energetic electrical discharge between the ground and the atmosphere or within cloud systems.

Formation and Mechanism

  • Lightning is generated by the separation of electric charges within a thunderstorm cloud.
  • It occurs when there is an imbalance between the negatively charged bottom of the cloud and the positively charged ground or another cloud.
  • The mechanism involves the movement of electrons and ions within the cloud and between the cloud and the ground.

Types of Lightning

  • Cloud-to-Ground (CG) Lightning: This is the most common type of lightning. It occurs between the cloud and the ground, either directly or through conducting objects like trees, buildings, or people.
  • Intra-Cloud (IC) Lightning: This lightning occurs within the cloud itself, between different regions of charge separation within the thunderstorm cloud.
  • Cloud-to-Cloud (CC) Lightning: As the name suggests, this lightning occurs between two separate thunderstorm clouds.

Characteristics and Effects

  • Lightning is characterized by its intense brightness, which is a result of the high electrical current passing through the air.
  • It generates a flash of light, heat, and a powerful shockwave that creates thunder.
  • The heat generated by lightning can reach temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun.
  • Lightning can cause physical damage to structures, trees, and other objects it strikes, and it poses a significant risk to human safety due to the potential for electrocution.

Lightning Safety and Precautions

  • Lightning safety measures are crucial to minimize the risk of injury or death during thunderstorms.
  • Seeking shelter indoors is the safest option. Avoid open areas, tall structures, water bodies, and metal objects during a thunderstorm.
  • If caught in an open area, crouch down with feet together, minimizing contact with the ground.
  • It is advisable to avoid using electronic devices plugged into electrical outlets during a thunderstorm.

Lightning Detection and Early Warning Systems

  • Advanced technologies and early warning systems have been developed to detect and predict lightning strikes.
  • These systems use various methods such as lightning sensors, satellite imagery, and atmospheric monitoring to provide warnings and forecasts.
  • Early warning systems aim to alert people in advance, allowing them to take necessary precautions and seek shelter during thunderstorms.


Q) Discuss the causes, characteristics, and impacts of lightning on human life and the environment. (150 words)