Worried over surging lightning deaths across Odisha, the State Government has directed Forest officials to go for massive plantation of palm trees on barren land and road sides.
Approximately 500 lives are lost annually due to lightning in the State. Palm trees, being the tallest ones, act as a good conductor when lightning strikes. Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Ganjam, Sundargarh, Balasore, Cuttack, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Khurda, Nabarangpur and Bhadrak are worst hit as the lightning has claimed more than 100 lives in each district.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Debabrata Swain has asked Regional Chief Conservator of Forests (RCCF) and Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) to ensure plantation of palm either by seed sowing or by planting nursery raised seedlings.
“Earlier, planting palm trees was a traditional practice in villages, but this has now been discontinued due to urbanisation and development. The tree has a wide range of uses — its fruits are eaten, the stem is valuable as wood, and baskets and mats are woven with the leaves. It is also learnt to be helpful as a bulwark against lightning casualties,” he said.
“Lightning usually hits the tallest object first. The palm tree being the tallest among other trees in its surroundings works as a lightning conductor, decreasing deaths by lightning,” said Mr Swain. Palm trees also protect coastal areas from storms and cyclones, while its roots protect embankments from soil erosion.
The neighbouring Bangladesh, which also sees many deaths every year due to lightning strikes, has announced a similar programme to plant one million palm trees.