Scorching heatwave continues in northwest, central India

Temperatures in 17 locations breached 45 degrees Celsius on Monday, with the punishing heat affecting health and livelihoods.
A family tries to take cover during a dust storm, in Patna, Monday, June 3, 2024.
A family tries to take cover during a dust storm, in Patna, Monday, June 3, 2024.PTI Photo

Heatwave conditions continued with slightly reduced intensity over parts of northwest and central India on Monday, with marginal relief predicted after two days.

Temperatures in 17 locations breached 45 degrees Celsius on Monday, with the punishing heat affecting health and livelihoods.

Heatwave conditions are very likely to continue in some parts of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Odisha on June 4-5; Uttar Pradesh, west Rajasthan, and Jharkhand until June 7; and Bihar on June 6-7, the Met office said.

Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh was the hottest in the country with a maximum temperature of 46.8 degrees Celsius.

Sirsa in Haryana and Ganganagar in Rajasthan sizzled at 46.4 and 46.5 degrees Celsius.

The mercury settled at 45.1 degrees in Delhi's Ayanagar, 45.9 degrees in Punjab's Amritsar, and 45.4 degrees in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj.

The India Meteorological Department said heatwave conditions over northwest, central, and east India are likely to continue with reduced intensity during the next four to five days.

The deadly heatwave is testing India's disaster preparedness, with several states reporting heat-related deaths.

India recorded nearly 25,000 suspected heat stroke cases and 56 deaths due to heat-related illnesses from March to May, PTI reported on Saturday, citing data from the health ministry.

According to data compiled by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 46 of these deaths were recorded in May alone (till May 30).

Between May 1 and 30, 19,189 suspected heat stroke cases were reported in the country, it said.

The data does not include deaths from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi, and the final numbers are expected to be higher, a source said.

India on Friday alone reported at least 40 suspected heat-related deaths, 25 of them staff deployed on Lok Sabha poll duty in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The crippling heat is straining power grids and leading to water shortages in parts of the country.

According to the Central Water Commission, water storage in 150 major reservoirs in India dropped to just 23 per cent of their live storage last week, exacerbating water shortages in many states and significantly affecting hydropower generation.

The intense heat has already driven India's power demand to 239.96 gigawatts, the highest so far this season, with air conditioners and coolers in homes and offices running at full capacity.

Severe heatwaves have impacted a large number of people in parts of India for three consecutive years, affecting health, water availability, agriculture, power generation, and other sectors of the economy.

The heatwave in May saw several places across the country, including Assam, Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh, recording their all-time high temperatures.

Parts of India saw record-breaking maximum temperatures in April as well.

Similar heatwaves could occur once every 30 years, and these have already become about 45 times more likely due to climate change, according to 'World Weather Attribution', a group of leading climate scientists.

Experts say those working outdoors, the elderly, and children are at higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,66,000 people died as a result of heatwaves between 1998 and 2017.

India reported 3,812 deaths due to heatwaves between 2015 and 2022, with Andhra Pradesh alone logging 2,419 fatalities, the government informed Parliament in July last year.

In the absence of adequate cold-chain infrastructure, extreme heat can cause major damage to fresh produce.

Studies show India faces food losses worth USD 13 billion a year, with only four per cent of fresh produce covered by cold chain facilities.

According to a World Bank report, India could account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress-associated productivity decline by 2030.

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