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61 dead as heatwave ravages Northern India



61 dead as heatwave ravages Northern India

As the mercury soars and the sun beats down relentlessly, India finds itself in the grips of a punishing heatwave that has already claimed 61 lives. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has announced some relief, with a slight abatement of the “severe heat wave” conditions. However, the agency has cautioned that the fight against the scorching temperatures is far from over, as heat waves continue to grip large swaths of north and central India.

Heatwave hotspots

The IMD’s data paints a concerning picture, with the number of heatwave days ranging from 8 to 14 in May across the northern and central regions of the country. East Rajasthan tops the list, experiencing a staggering 14 such days last month, followed by the sweltering states of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.

While the IMD has reported a fall in maximum temperatures, ranging from 3 to 4 degrees Celsius in parts of Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh, the relief is far from universal. Heat waves with temperatures soaring above 45 degrees Celsius continue to plague regions like Punjab, northwest Rajasthan, north Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Chhattisgarh, and west Jharkhand.

India battles the elements

As the nation grappled with the scorching conditions, the toll on human life has been devastating. Four security personnel deployed for the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar’s Rohtas district lost their lives due to heatstroke in the last week alone. These tragedies add to the growing list of over 90 people who have perished in the unforgiving summer heat across western Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan.

A deadly cocktail of heat factors

The intensifying heatwaves are not just about soaring temperatures, but a lethal combination of air temperature, land surface temperature, and relative humidity. This deadly cocktail leads to acute thermal discomfort and a heightened burden of heat-related diseases, even as some regions may experience a decline in air temperatures.

In a separate exercise, the Union Health Ministry has reported that India has recorded 56 deaths from 24,849 suspected cases of heat stroke between March and May. However, this data does not include figures from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi, suggesting the final tally is likely to be much higher.

Scorching summers: A recurring challenge for India

Scorching summer heat and heatwaves are not new phenomena in India, but their frequency and intensity seem to be on the rise, with durations becoming increasingly prolonged. This alarming trend has prompted a closer examination of the underlying factors contributing to this climatic crisis.

A recent analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment has shed light on the complex nature of heat stress, which goes beyond just rising temperatures. It is a deadly combination of air temperature, land surface temperature, and relative humidity that collectively leads to acute thermal discomfort and a heightened risk of heat-related illnesses.

Strategies for resilience

As India grapples with the escalating heatwave crisis, the need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate the impact and build resilience has become increasingly urgent. From improving early warning systems and strengthening emergency response mechanisms to promoting sustainable urban planning and raising public awareness, a multifaceted approach is required to safeguard the well-being of the nation’s citizens.

At the grassroots level, communities are taking matters into their own hands, implementing innovative solutions to combat the heatwave’s effects. From setting up cooling centers and distribution of water and electrolyte-rich beverages to organizing awareness campaigns and training programs, these local initiatives are proving to be vital in building resilience and saving lives.

Leveraging technology for heatwave mitigation

The role of technology and data-driven insights is crucial in the fight against the heatwave crisis. Advancements in weather forecasting, satellite monitoring, and predictive analytics are enabling more accurate early warning systems and targeted interventions. By harnessing the power of data, policymakers and disaster management authorities can make more informed decisions and allocate resources effectively.

Battling the burn

As India continues to grapple with the escalating heatwave crisis, the need for a long-term, sustainable approach has never been more apparent. Embracing eco-friendly urban planning, promoting renewable energy, and investing in climate-smart agriculture are just a few of the strategies that can help mitigate the underlying drivers of heat stress and build a more resilient future for the nation.