Wednesday, June 07, 2017

India heats up

Heat waves are defined as conditions triggered by the temperature rising to more than 45 degrees Celsius. When temperatures soar above 47 degrees Celsius, it is known as a severe heat wave. The altering global weather patterns as a result of climate change due to human emissions of greenhouse gases are blamed as a reason for the increased frequency and severity of these heat waves. Sweltering and scorching heat is not an uncommon phenomenon in India. Nor are deaths resulting from the extremely hot conditions. In the last four years, India has seen as many as over 4,620 deaths caused by heat waves, according to data published by the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The hot weather conditions have also caused problems like crop failures, power outages and acute water shortages, bringing pain and misery to millions of Indians. A report in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences projected deadly heat waves to occur, particularly in megacities, even if global warming is limited to below 2 degrees Celsius, the target set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The study's findings show that even with a less than two degrees Celsius rise, places like Kolkata in India could expect conditions similar to their deadly 2015 heat waves every year.

"India's climate is warming up at a very fast rate. It is warming at a much faster rate than thought previously. Our analysis looks at temperature trends in the country - both annual and seasonal - from 1901 till recent years. And it finds that the country has been getting warmer continuously, consistently and rapidly," Chandra Bhushan of the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based environmental NGO, told DW.

The India Meteorological Department has been issuing heat wave warnings periodically across northern, western and central regions of India, particularly in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and northern Maharashtra. The met department had earlier warned that summer temperatures in 2017 were likely to be higher than normal. Temperatures have reached as high as 48 degrees Celsius in parts of the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and 47 degrees Celsius in Delhi in recent days. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are the two major risks posed by high-temperature conditions. In the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, 220 people reportedly died of sunstroke last month alone. At least ten people lost their lives in various parts of Uttar Pradesh in the last 24 hours, officials said on Tuesday. The number of patients with heat stroke conditions, diarrhea, vomiting and high fever has increased in hospitals across the state. In the eastern state of Odisha, at least 34 people have lost their lives due to heatstroke this summer. Most victims usually belong to the vulnerable sections of Indian society - the destitute, the elderly as well as the workers doing backbreaking low-wage jobs in sectors like agriculture and construction.

"Unfortunately, it is the poor that are always hit in these times. Vegetable vendors, construction workers and farmers are the normal causalities. We are tying up with state disaster management commissioners and health secretaries to formulate plans in the face of large casualties from heat wave conditions," S.C. Bhan, a meteorologist, told DW.

To help end Climate Change, contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

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