Lightning fatalities in India

Lightning fatalities in India

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Lightning fatalities in India”. The topic “Lightning fatalities in India” has relevance in the Environment section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

About Atmospheric Lightning ?

Current Scenario of Lightning in India?

For Mains:

GS 3: Environment


Way Forward?

Why in the news?

The Union government is not in favour of declaring lightning a natural disaster as deaths caused by it can be avoided through education and awareness . India is among the only five countries in the world with an early warning system for lightning and the forecast is available from five days to up to 3 hours. 

There have been demands by States such as Bihar and West Bengal that deaths due to lightning be covered as a natural disaster. The victims will be entitled to compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) once this is notified. As much as 75% of funds to SDRF are contributed by the Centre.

About Atmospheric Lightning:

Atmospheric lightning, also known simply as lightning, is a natural electrical discharge that occurs between clouds or between a cloud and the Earth’s surface. It is a powerful and visible phenomenon that results from the buildup and release of electrical charges within the Earth’s atmosphere.

Key Characteristics of Atmospheric Lightning:

  • Formation: Lightning occurs due to the separation of positive and negative electrical charges within a cloud or between clouds and the ground. The exact mechanism of charge separation is complex and not fully understood, but it involves various processes such as collision, freezing, and convection within the cloud.
  • Electrical Discharge: When the electrical potential difference between the charged regions becomes large enough, it leads to a rapid flow of electrons, creating a discharge known as lightning. This discharge is characterized by a brilliant flash of light and a rapid expansion of air, which generates the sound we hear as thunder.
  • Types of Lightning: There are different types of lightning, including cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning, cloud-to-cloud (CC) lightning, intra-cloud (IC) lightning, and cloud-to-air (CA) lightning. CG lightning is the most well-known and dangerous type, as it can directly affect people and objects on the ground.
  • Frequency and Distribution: Lightning occurs worldwide and is more common in regions with frequent thunderstorms, such as the tropics and subtropics. The geographical distribution of lightning activity varies depending on atmospheric conditions, including humidity, temperature, and atmospheric instability.
  • Dangers of Lightning: Atmospheric lightning is hazardous due to its high electric voltage and current. It can cause injuries and fatalities if individuals or objects provide a more accessible path for the electrical discharge to flow, such as tall structures, trees, or open fields.

How Lightning Works | HowStuffWorks

Current Scenario of Lightning in India:

Lightning Fatalities:

  • In 2021, lightning accounted for 2,880 deaths, comprising 40% of all accidental deaths caused by “forces of nature,” according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
  • There has been an increase in lightning-related fatalities compared to other natural events.

Geographical Distribution:

  • Lightning frequency is highest in northeastern states and West Bengal, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Bihar.
  • However, the number of lightning-related deaths is higher in central Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha.
  • Bihar is one of the most vulnerable states to lightning strikes, with a significant number of deaths reported annually. In 2023, till July 6, Bihar recorded 107 deaths due to lightning.

Union Government’s View About Lightning:

The Union government opposes declaring lightning a natural disaster and believes that education and awareness can help prevent lightning-related deaths effectively.



Climate Change:

  • Global warming and climate change could potentially influence atmospheric conditions, leading to an increase in thunderstorms and lightning activity.
  • Changes in the distribution of moisture, instability, and convective processes may favor more frequent lightning occurrences.


  • The expansion of urban areas can create the “urban heat island effect,” making cities warmer than surrounding rural areas.
  • These localized heat islands may lead to the formation of more thunderstorms and an increase in lightning strikes.

Land Use Changes:

Deforestation, changes in agricultural practices, and alterations of natural landscapes may disrupt local atmospheric conditions, contributing to the development of thunderstorms and more lightning.

Pollution and Aerosols:

  • Air pollution, including aerosols and particulate matter, can affect cloud formation and electrical activity within storms.
  • Anthropogenic emissions might influence the frequency and intensity of thunderstorms, potentially leading to more lightning strikes.


Way Forward:

Educational Campaigns:

Launch extensive educational campaigns to raise awareness about lightning safety, especially in rural areas, to inform people about the dangers of lightning and precautions to stay safe.

Lightning Prediction and Warning Systems:

Develop and implement lightning prediction and warning systems to provide advanced notice of lightning storms, helping people take necessary precautions and seek shelter in time.

Lightning-Resistant Infrastructure:

Encourage the construction of lightning-resistant infrastructure, including lightning rods on tall structures and surge protectors for electrical equipment, to reduce the risk of damage from lightning strikes.

Training for First Responders:

Train local emergency services and first responders on how to deal with lightning-related incidents and provide them with necessary equipment to handle such situations effectively.


Q.1 Which of the following atmospheric factors plays a significant role in the formation of lightning and thunderstorms?

(A) Wind Speed

(B) Humidity

(C) Temperature Inversion

(D) Air Pressure

Select the correct option from the choices given above:

(a) A and B only

(b) B and C only

(c) A, B, and C only

(d) B, C, and D only

Answer: b

Q.2 During a thunderstorm, the thunder in the skies is produced by the:

  1. meeting of cumulonimbus clouds in the sky
  2. lightning that separates the nimbus clouds
  3. violent upward movement of air and water particles

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 1 and 3

(d) None of the above produces the thunder

Answer: d

Q.3 Discuss the challenges and measures to mitigate the impact of lightning-related fatalities in India.

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