A CLOSE LOOK

Lightning shaft that descends from above to kill

Nilratan Halder | Published: May 04, 2018 21:07:28


Lightning or thunderbolt has become the latest agent of death for people in this country. It is such a fearsome arsenal sent from the sky above, against which unsuspecting human beings in the open have no defence. These carriers of doom strike people unannounced and this is why lightning with its frequency going up phenomenally looks so ominous.

On Tuesday and Wednesday as many as 10 people -most of them farmers -- were killed by cloud-to-ground thunderbolts all across the country. Now is the time for paddy harvest and farmers cannot but stay in open crop field. In the Barendra region, rains of the past few days have flooded paddy fields, making it incumbent on farmers to harvest crops as soon as possible. But labourers for the job are short in supply. So the whole family gets engaged in harvesting paddy. The urgency shows that farmers cannot stay home when it rains accompanied with lightning. Quite a few deaths have been reported from that region.

For farmers this is a matter of life and death. They put at risk their lives in order to save their crops. But why has lightning become a near certainty whenever clouds gather and parts of those come down as rains? It was not so in the past. When Bangladesh is experiencing such a high incidence of lightning, how are areas elsewhere prone to thunders faring? One of such areas in the world is coastal Andhra Pradesh in India. Recently, that area recorded 41025 lightning strikes in just 16 hours and 10 minutes of a day. Sounds incredible but the Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority (APSDMA) authenticated the fact that the lightning strikes took place between 7:30 am and 11:40 pm on a certain day. The thunderbolts killed 14 people in 11 districts there.

There has been a phenomenal change, according to experts, in the colour combination of clouds. What's this? The clouds, they claim, are more blackish than before. So black are the clouds that when clouds envelop the city before thunders and rains start their deadly dance, the city becomes totally invisible. It is darker than night. Scientists claim that this has happened because of the heavy presence of zinc and lead in the upper atmosphere. The influence of these two elements is behind the clouds getting on a collision course so often.

If this is confirmed beyond doubt, there is no doubt that man is instrumental in causing this environmental disaster. People may not realize that harming Nature returns as a boomerang at some point or other but environmentalists have long set the alarm bell ringing. When worldly power gets concentrated in the hands of men like US president Donald Trump, they give a damn to issues which are vital for survival of the human and other species on this planet. Burnt-up fossil fuel is depositing carbon in the outer atmosphere beyond the capacity it can absorb. Yet headstrong people like Trump would not listen to reason for reducing fossil fuel consumption for the sake of limiting the temperature of the globe to the internationally accepted level.

Sure enough Bangladesh's contribution to such environmental pollution is still small but on other counts such as pollution of its water bodies, farmlands and atmosphere by untreated chemical waste and effluent release, random use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide; and brick kiln respectively it is inviting an environmental disaster. The country may be in a small way responsible for polluting the higher atmosphere where zinc and lead accumulate to cause thunderbolts, but it has evidently found itself at the receiving end of this natural hazard. 

Surely it is a man-made disaster the species along with the other animal world is going to court. Indiscretion on the part of humans has pushed the planet to a point where unprecedented developments like the pollution of the higher atmosphere will take place, triggering dangers to life and property.  

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