Odisha To Take Up Massive Palm Tree Plantation To Thwart Lightning Casualty
Bhubaneswar: Days after 12 people were killed during extreme thunderstorm and lightning activities in Odisha, Special Relief Commissioner Satyabrata Sahu on Friday directed Forest and Agriculture departments to take up massive palm tree plantation in reserve forest area and other vulnerable districts as lightning mitigation measure.
He issued the order during the inter-departmental meeting for undertaking disaster resilient projects under Disaster Mitigation Fund.
Environmentalists and weather experts in the state had earlier expressed concern over dwindling number of taller trees, including palm, that protect against lightning, which reportedly claimed 281 lives in rural areas during 2021-22. “Palm trees are taller than coconut trees. Lightning strikes those trees on and along farmlands, thus protecting farmers who work till late afternoon and during heavy rain and thunderstorm and lightning. They are now getting killed in such strikes due to nonexistent of palm trees,” said senior meteorologist Umasankar Das.
The palm tree acts as a lightning conductor during storms because of their height and reduces changes of people getting struck by it.
According to environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty, who had written to the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) in this regard, said large-scale felling of palm tree has been noticed in Keonjhar district’s Telkoi range and Dhenkanal and Angul forest divisions.
In 2018, the Forest department had sent advisories to all regional chief conservators of forests and divisional forest officers to promote palm tree plantation along state and national highways, along the boundaries of villages, reserve forests and farms, he said, adding that the villagers were also advised to use seeds of the palm fruit and plant them along the cultivable lands.
The initiative, however, did not fetch the desired results.
Palm tree plantation, which was part of a custom, was discontinued in villages, where it acted as fence in farm houses and protected people from lightning, due to urbanisation and infrastructure development. Palm trees not only prevent lightning strikes but also protect coastal areas from storms and cyclones. Roots of these trees also save flood-protection embankments against soil erosion. Palm fruits are the only wild fruit available during the rainy season, sources said.
Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Bijay Ketan Patnaik said that people are now not interested in planting palm trees as they require three to four years to grow.
Claiming that over 4,000 people have lost their lives to lightning strikes in the state in the last 20 years, the Odisha government has also submitted a proposal to the Centre to declare lightning as a ‘natural disaster.