Bangladesh is saving lives with trees, but it’s not air pollution they’re fighting



They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but in Bangladesh, it’s still been striking far too often for anyone’s taste. With at least 200 lightning-related deaths in the country last year, the Bangladeshi government is now looking for solutions wherever it can find them; and their first step may be a bit unexpected. On the other hand, how better to fight nature than with nature?

In a nutshell, the plan is to plant a million palm trees to act as lightning rods and protect people by attracting and absorbing lightning strikes that can otherwise hit people. Some experts have said that the reason the risk is so high at the moment is that deforestation in rural areas has removed this protection.

At one point, the situation got bad enough to be classified as a natural disaster. In May 2016, 82 people were killed in a single day, leaving no doubt that action needs to be taken. Unfortunately, it will take time for the trees to grow enough to be helpful, but this probably won’t be the only measure the Bangladeshi government takes in order to fight the problem; and when the trees do grow, they will not only protect people from lightning, but also help the environment.

Although it may not have been an intended effect, a million extra trees is good news for the environment, especially since climate change puts Bangladesh at particularly high risk, and pollution is already immensely harmful for the people living there.

The government’s disaster management secretary Shah Kamal has said that Thailand has already benefited from a similar program, so there is reason to be optimistic about the eventual results in Bangladesh as well.  Kamal also told Agence France-Presse that they should be finished with the planting by June this year.