Over 200 people died in Bangladesh in 2016 because of lightning strikes, according to official tallies. In an effort to reduce lightning fatalities, the Bangladesh government is turning to nature. They aim to plant one million palm trees to absorb lightning damage and save lives.
In 2016 alone, lightning could have killed as many as 349 people, according to one independent monitor. That number is so much higher than the official tally because people residing in rural areas sometimes don’t report a death to police. 82 people died from the phenomenon on just one day in May, and the government ultimately described lightning as a natural disaster in 2016. They hope to combat the issue with multiple measures, the first of which could be tree-planting.
Disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP, “We’ve already started planting palm trees in rural areas in an effort to reduce the number of deaths due to lightning. We’ll plant one million palm trees by June this year.” A similar program already appears to be successful in Thailand. Although lightning can damage trees, their presence will prevent electric charges from coursing through the ground.
Deforestation may have played a role in the deaths. Experts have said so many fatalities occurred partly because there weren’t enough trees whose branches would be able to absorb lightning strikes. Bangladesh Meteorological Department former head Shah Alam told AFP lightning strikes have increased in rural areas devastated by increased deforestation, as farmers have cut trees down to cultivate rice and other crops.
It may take a while for the tree planting program in Bangladesh to produce results, but it’s still worth pursuing, according to Alam, who said, “Palm trees take years to grow. But definitely, this is a good move by the government. It will reduce deaths.”