Friday, May 06, 2022

Hot India

As a heatwave roasts India and Pakistan, it's the poor who are once again the most vulnerable. The heatwave has upended lives of millions of people in India who are struggling to cope with the soaring temperatures - the highest in over 100 years.

After record-breaking weeks, the country's weather department expects temperatures in northwest India to get slightly better, as maximum temperatures are expected to drop by 3-4C this week. But the respite is expected to be short-lived, with maximum temperatures shooting back up by 2-3C few days after that.

The heatwave that has struck India this year has been particularly severe, but experts say it is not an isolated incident - they say it is a harbinger of the type of events that might become more common in the future as temperatures rise.

But as heatwaves become more frequent, expert say work such as construction and agriculture will become dangerous during the hottest hours of the day.

This is not just a matter of public health and safety, but also a grave economic issue for a country that is highly dependent on heat-exposed labour. India is already losing $101bn annually due to heat - the most in the world - a report by Nature Communications has found. 

The lost labour hours due to increasing heat and humidity could put approximately 2.5-4.5% of GDP at risk by 2030, up to $250bn, according to a 2020 McKinsey report. The number of daylight hours - during which outdoor work is unsafe - will also increase approximately 15% by 2030, compared to a decade earlier, the report says.

Experts say that poor infrastructure in cities has made life harder for people. Free and clean drinking water is limited and there aren't enough shelters for him to escape the heat, even for a while.

Shruti Narayan, regional director of South and West Asia of C40 Cities, says cities need to urgently take action by developing data-driven climate action plans.

"This includes clear, tangible actions on mitigation and adaptation, as well as building resilience to events we are already experiencing such as heat plans."

Heatwave: India's poor bear the brunt of blistering temperatures - BBC News

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