- In Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, fourteen individuals just passed away from heatstroke during a formal government ceremony held on open land. There were many hundred hospitalised.If the proper safety measures had been taken, this tragedy might have been avoided.
- In India, the temperature has been constantly rising. The country saw its warmest February on record in 2023. Despite the fact that the monthly average temperatures in March and April were above average, they were not unusually high since sporadic thunderstorms brought the temperature down. However, despite not being traditional heatwaves, some days saw daily maximum temperatures that were 2-3 degrees higher than average.
- Given that heat waves are expected to grow by a factor of six by 2060, such preparations are urgently required to safeguard vulnerable areas.
GS Paper 3: Climate Change
What steps has the Indian government made to combat the growing risk of heatwaves and safeguard communities at risk? Talk about the necessity of long-term planning and comprehensive heat action plans for managing different sectors in light of rising temperatures. (250 Words)
A heat wave is “a period of abnormally hot weather, often defined with reference to a relative temperature threshold, lasting from two days to months,” according to the IPCC.
What causes heat waves?
- Heat Waves happen when hot, dry air from the upper atmosphere sinks and pushes down towards the earth’s surface. A stifling dome of heat is created as the air is compressed and heated even more as it descends. As a result, clouds are less likely to form, which makes the area even hotter by allowing the heat of the sun to directly hit the ground. This explains why hot, sunny days frequently see heat waves.
- A heat dome is created when hot ocean air is trapped in the atmosphere, as if it were enclosed by a lid or cap. During the months of April and May, the Indian subcontinent typically experiences an Omega block, which is a slow-moving upper air weather phenomenon. Due to climate change, there is now more heat accumulating, leading to more extreme heat waves.
Heatwave Zones & Vulnerable Populations:
- The 760 million people who live in the arid northwest region of India and Pakistan are particularly susceptible to extreme heat waves. Temperatures frequently exceed 40°C in April and May, occasionally resulting in sweltering heat waves. In recent years, these occurrences have increased in severity, lasted longer, and occurred more frequently.
- Geographically, the Indo-Pak region is cut in half by the heatwave zone. States in India that are in the heatwave zone include Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.
- In India, heatwaves killed roughly 17,362 people between 1971 and 2019, or 350 people on average every year.
Climate Change Effects
- The increase in global mean temperatures of 1 degree Celsius brought on by historical carbon emissions is directly responsible for the amplification of heat extremes. Unfortunately, the world community’s present pledges are insufficient to stop an increase in temperature of 1.5°C between 2020 and 2040 and 2°C between 2040 and 2060.
- By 2050, there will be 1 billion people living in the region, making it even more vulnerable to the effects of future heat waves.
- Given that it is difficult to imagine what would happen if global temperatures doubled in the next few decades, this issue needs to be addressed right away.
Heatwaves, Drought, Fires, and Pollution:
- In 2022, India and Pakistan experienced record-breaking heat waves from March to May, with temperatures exceeding 50°C in both countries. These harsh temperatures hampered wheat production, prompting a limitation in wheat exports to ensure national food security.
- The absence of thunderstorms during this time period aggravated the impact, resulting in widespread fires, crop loss, and water scarcity.
- Additionally, when particulates from fires and stubble burning lingered in the air, sluggish meteorological conditions contributed to increased pollution levels.
The Immediate Need for Action:
- For the next five days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) will issue six-hourly heatwave warnings. These forecasts are sent to all Indian cities and districts, and depending on the severity of the heatwave, the local authorities issue a yellow (watch), orange (be prepared), or red (take action) alert. Planning ahead may benefit from looking at the heatwave outlooks for the upcoming two weeks and the entire season.
- The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation created a Heat Action Plan for the city in accordance with the weather projections following the deadly heat waves of 2010. The effects of heat stress on the local population have been lessened because to community engagement, health alerts, training for healthcare professionals, and initiatives specifically targeted at vulnerable groups. With the aid of disaster management organisations and health departments, numerous cities and States have started their own action plans after learning from Ahmedabad’s heat action plan.
- Given that heatwaves are here to stay and are only going to get worse, policies are necessary. We have access to enough data to pinpoint the areas where heatwaves are becoming more frequent, and we must implement measures there.
- Integrating a heat emergency plan into the education system and workplace policies can equip people to handle heat emergencies and protect their health and well-being.
- We need to redesign our cities to have open spaces and trees that help release the excess heat quickly and also act as hubs for shade and cooling down.
- In order to manage our work schedules, public infrastructure, workplaces, homes, transportation, and agriculture in preparation for impending heat waves, India requires a long-term vision.
Regular heatwave forecasts from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) enable local governments to issue the proper notifications based on intensity. But relying exclusively on projections is inadequate. The implementation of comprehensive heat action programmes founded on long-term vision is necessary.