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1,697 people killed by lightning in India between March 2020 – April 2021

NEW DELHI:  As many as 1,697 people were struck down by lightning in India between March 2020 and April 2021, revealed Centre for Science and Environment, a not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization based in New Delhi and Down to Earth Magazine, a science and environment fortnightly.

It stated that India has recorded a 34 percent increase in lightning strikes. The country recorded 18.5 million lightning strikes between April 2020 and March 2021 whereas 13.8 million strikes were recorded between April 2019 and March 2020.

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Some of the states that have been at the receiving end of these strikes are Punjab, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Puducherry, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal. In Punjab, the increase in number of lightning strikes has been a staggering 331 per cent annually, while in Bihar — where 401 people lost their lives to lightning strikes during the year — there was a 168 per cent rise.

“There is growing scientific evidence that climate change may be sparking more lightning across the world. Rapid urbanisation and population growth have guaranteed an intensification of human exposure to lightning hazard,” says Down To Earth managing editor Richard Mahapatra.

A foreboding dimension of the surge in lightning strike numbers is their link to forest fires. “Scientists from the Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Srinagar, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, have studied the concentration of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) in different weather conditions in the central Himalayan region. They have found a five-time higher concentration of CCN in the atmosphere during forest fires as against during rains. In May 2021, researchers in Australia linked excess CCN to the increased number of lightning strikes during the 2019-20 Australia forest fires,” says Kiran Pandey, programme director of CSE’s environmental resources unit.

It is noteworthy that as many as 18 wild elephants died in a lightning strike in Bamunipahar hill in Nagaon district of Assam on May 13.

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