With the changing weather pattern worldwide, the monsoon rains in the region too have changed, with lightning and thunder often accompanying them, unlike in the recent past when the rains just fell silently. Many parts of north Bengal have so far reported intense lightning strikes this monsoon, while the phenomenon has even killed several people and cattle heads and damaged houses.

Keeping in view this weather pattern and voicing concerns over the increasing lightning strikes, nature lovers and environmentalists believe that it is now time people in the region, especially Siliguri and its adjoining areas, install lightning arresters or lightning conductors, while also spreading awareness. Lightning is a huge electrical discharge that flows between clouds, from a cloud to air, or from a cloud to the ground, while thunder is produced by the rapid heating of air by a lightning bolt, weather experts say.

The municipal rules have no provision that makes it mandatory for high-rises to install such lightning conductors, a rooftop system that can protect a building and electrical gadgets in it during lightning strikes. Even the simple ‘earthing’ is not mandatory for houses.

“Incidents of lightning are on the rise in the region for the past few years. The rising air pollution levels could be contributing to the increase in the frequency and intensity of lightning strikes. The number of deaths due to this, especially in the rural areas, has also gone up. There should have been the safety shield. The profusion of tall buildings across the town makes them vulnerable to lightning strikes. All tall buildings should install lightning arresters,” said Animesh Bose, who has been working on several environmental issues for the past few decades in north Bengal.

“Protection systems against lightning have become all the more necessary, given the lightning strikes in recent times. The civic body should look into this,” he added. Mr Bose, who represents the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, believes there should be large scale awareness programmes on lightning safety.

Experts say an ‘arrester’ helps pass the huge amount of electric current that is generated when lightning strikes, reducing the chances of generating enough energy to trigger a fire.

According to Subhadip Saha, the Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Surendra Institute of Engineering and Management in Siliguri, a lightning arrester is a device used on electric power systems and telecommunication systems to protect the insulation and conductors of the system from the damaging effects of lightning.