The Odisha government has asked the forest and agriculture departments to take up massive palm tree plantation as an effective mitigation measure to avoid deaths due to lightning strikes in rural areas.
The decision was taken at an inter-departmental meeting convened by special relief commissioner (SRC) Satyabrata Sahu.
“Inter-departmental meeting held by SRC for undertaking disaster resilient projects under Disaster Mitigation Fund. @ForestDeptt & @krushibibhag asked to take up massive Palm tree plantation in reserve forest area and other vulnerable districts as a #Lightning mitigation measures,” the SRC said in a post on X.
The SRC’s decision came in the wake of many people, mostly farmers losing their lives due to lightning strikes while working in agricultural fields. As many as 281 lightning deaths were reported in 2021-22, most of them from rural areas.
Stating that environmentalists and weather experts have drawn attention to the rampant felling of palm trees that give protection against lightning, the SRC meeting resolved that it should promote planting palm trees in rural areas.
Uma Shankar Dash, a senior scientist at the Regional Meteorological Centre, Bhubaneswar, said that palm trees, which are taller than coconut trees, often work as a shield against lightning.
“Lightning used to strike tall palm trees and as a result, farmers were escaping from lightning strikes while working in their farmlands,” Dash said, adding that the farmers now are hit by lightning strikes as they take shelter under trees during rain.
The SRC observed that people in rural areas were no longer planting palm trees after most of the houses became pucca in rural areas. Earlier, people used palm leaves and its log in house construction.