Brace for heatwaves, States told

A woman takes shelter from the scorching sun in Kalaburagi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Arun Kulkarni

Even as the country braces for a scorching summer and temperatures in several States going up over the past week, the India Meteorological Department, along with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), is exhorting the States to implement Heat Wave Action Plans.

These describe step-by-step procedures the States ought to implement — from communication and ensuring first aid to imposing early summer vacations in schools and ensuring that labourers employed in MGNREGA schemes aren’t assigned work during certain times of the day — in case of heatwave like conditions.

So far Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha and Maharashtra have committed themselves to action plans, which are implemented in varying degrees in their districts.

Advice to U.P., Rajasthan

“This year we’re talking to Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to have such a plan,” Madhavan Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told The Hindu.

Several IMD officials from various States as well as representatives from municipal corporations are attending here a two-day workshop, meant to nudge more States into having a State-specific plan.

Cut in casualties

Brace for heatwaves, States told

At a presentation, NDMA’s Anup Srivastava said heatwaves killed 22,562 between 1992 and 2015.

“In 2016, the number of casualties came down drastically to 1,111 from 2,040 in 2015,” he said in a paper. It was from 2016 that the IMD began giving heatwave forecasts and the States began considering plans.

In 2015, Andhra Pradesh had 1,422 heat-related deaths. This came down to 723 the next year.

While there are nuances and region specific differences, the IMD broadly defines a heatwave as when a place’s temperature is 5-6°C above normal.

It already forecasts heatwaves on its website but a proper plan would mean that the States and district administrations would get warnings on the likelihood of temperatures rising to heatwave limits.

“For instance, a State like Gujarat would like to know when temperatures would hit 41-42°C and we give them a forecast,” said S.C. Bhan, IMD meteorologist associated with the programme.

On February 28, the IMD forecast “above normal” temperatures this summer in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana.

The summer forecast is in line with a generally warm trend over previous months; 2016 was the warmest year in a century, according to the IMD, with the country 0.91°C warmer than the 1961-1990 average. The summer months of March-May last year were 1.36°C higher than the historical average, making it the second warmest since 1901. The higher temperatures coincide with three, consecutive years of weak monsoons.

On Tuesday, the IMD said that “prevailing winds & clear sky conditions over northwest & adjoining central India” has led to heat wave conditions in West Rajasthan & Gujarat and at isolated places over West Madhya Pradesh. Delhi was already 7°C hotter than what’s normal for the last week of March.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 8:13:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/states-get-warning-to-brace-for-heat-waves/article17710875.ece

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