The news brought the attention of the global media to the severe heat wave in India. Experts contend that the ongoing drought and severe water shortage in many parts of the country have compounded the problem. Approximately 330 million are likely to be affected by these nasty weather conditions, according to the Indian government.
Since India’s hottest months tend to be May and June, authorities are seriously concerned about a significant spike in heat-related deaths. Ten states are presently reeling under drought and water storage in reservoirs is at an all time low. The challenges faced by various state governments are complex. Despite their best efforts, laborers in the unorganised sector and farmers are bound to suffer.
A large percentage of India’s population still survives on daily wages. Missing a day of work for them will mean losing out on much-needed pay. Last year more than 2,400 people died from heat-related illness in India, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. Many of those who died were laborers and farm hands who work outside, even in peak temperatures.
Akshay Deoras, an independent weather forecaster, hints at a disturbing pattern between El Niño—a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns—and the spike in death toll across summers in India. “In India, more than 3,000 people were killed during the heat wave of 2003, whereas more than 2,000 people lost their lives during the 1998 heat wave,” he observes.
“At least 1,300 deaths were reported during the heat wave of 1988, whereas more than 2,000 people were killed during the heat wave in 2015. All these years were either El Niño years or the years following El Niño phenomenon.”