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Northwest, east India braces for another heatwave spell

Northwest, east India braces for another heatwave spell

New Delhi: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a warning for an imminent heatwave in northwest and east India, forecasting a temperature increase of 2-3 degrees Celsius in the coming five days.

The nation has already endured severe heatwaves in April and May, which have strained human resilience and tested disaster management systems. States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha have reported fatalities linked to the scorching temperatures.

Regions predicted to be affected include Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Gangetic West Bengal.

The extreme heat is attributed to the El Nino effect—unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface—and a surge in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Urbanisation has exacerbated the situation, disproportionately affecting outdoor labourers and economically disadvantaged families.

Record-breaking temperatures were observed in May, with some regions in Assam, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh experiencing their highest temperatures ever. Rajasthan witnessed temperatures soaring above 50 degrees Celsius, with Delhi and Haryana not far behind.

Climate scientists from ‘World Weather Attribution’ warn that such heatwaves are now 45 times more likely to occur, potentially happening once every 30 years due to climate change.

The heat may have influenced the lower voter turnout in the recent general elections, which spanned from April 19 to June 1.

Water scarcity is intensifying, with the Central Water Commission reporting a drop to 22 per cent of live storage capacity in the country’s 150 major reservoirs, impacting hydropower production.

The heatwave has pushed India’s power demand to an unprecedented 246 gigawatts, driven by the widespread use of air conditioning and cooling appliances.

From March to May, India reported approximately 25,000 suspected cases of heat stroke and 56 heat-related deaths, according to the health ministry. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recorded 46 deaths in May alone.

These figures exclude data from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi, suggesting the actual impact may be greater.

For three years in a row, intense heatwaves have affected vast populations, disrupting health, water resources, agriculture, and power sectors.

A World Bank report projects that by 2030, India could suffer 34 million job losses due to heat stress, contributing significantly to the estimated 80 million global job losses.

Additionally, India incurs annual food losses of $13 billion, with a mere 4 per cent of perishable goods protected by cold storage facilities.

The ongoing heatwave poses a serious challenge to the nation’s economy and public health.

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