What is the initiative about?
The Odisha Government has renewed its effort to increase the plantation of palm trees along vacant road patches and areas bordering forests. This is to leverage the trees' capacity to act as protective barriers against lightning during thunderstorms.
Why are palm trees being chosen for this initiative?
Palm trees have proven to be effective electrical conductors for lightning, thus helping in reducing the incidence of lightning strikes in the nearby areas. This attribute, coupled with their long lifespan (almost 100 years when mature) and their wide range of utility values, make them a valuable asset in disaster mitigation.
What prompted this renewed initiative?
The state has witnessed an alarming rise in lightning-related deaths, with approximately 400 fatalities recorded annually. This spurred the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) to mandate lightning-resilient projects under the Disaster Mitigation Fund. The Forest and Agriculture Departments are tasked with undertaking massive palm tree plantations in reserve forest areas and other vulnerable districts as a part of lightning mitigation measures.
Has this kind of initiative been undertaken in the past?
Yes, planting palm trees as a protective measure was a traditional practice in villages, which unfortunately got discontinued due to urbanization. The state had previously initiated large-scale planting of palm trees in May 2018 to curb lightning deaths.
What assistance does the government provide to lightning victims?
Since April 1, 2015, when lightning was recognized as a state-specific disaster, the government has been offering an ex-gratia payment of ₹4 lakhs per deceased person to support the families of the victims. Prior to this, aid was disbursed from either the chief minister’s relief fund or the district gratuitous relief fund.
What is the lifespan and growth rate of palm trees?
Palm trees have a significant lifespan with mature trees living up to 100 years. However, they grow slowly, requiring about 20 years to reach full maturity and achieve a significant height.
Who are the most affected by lightning strikes?
The majority of the victims of lightning strikes are from rural areas, including a sizable number of farmers who are engaged in agricultural operations.
Is the government seeking a different status for lightning-related disasters?
Yes, the state government has petitioned the central government to categorize lightning as a natural calamity, which is currently viewed as a state-specific disaster. This reclassification can potentially bring in more focused efforts and resources to address the issue effectively.