New Delhi: This year, India experienced the warmest February in 122 years that is since record keeping began in 1901, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). With soaring mercury, India is witnessing heat wave conditions in isolated pockets over Gangetic West Bengal, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana for the past few days. IMD on Thursday (April 20) predicted that heat wave conditions will continue over east India during the next two days and abate thereafter.
The Tripura government has declared the heat wave as a state disaster. Amid soaring temperature, schools and over 9,900 Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Anganwadi centres in the state have been shut till April 23. In a notification by the Additional Secretary, the government said,
Considering the scorching heat wave in Tripura and the probable bad effect on the health of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, it has been decided that all anganwadi centres under ICDS will remain closed from April 19 to April 23.
The government order added,
However, Supplementary Nutrition Programme foods items and nutrition are to be distributed for the closing periods at the doorsteps of beneficiaries viz. children (6 months to 6 years), pregnant women and lactating mothers not in the form of hot cooked meal but as take-home ration during home visit. Beneficiaries will not attend the Anganwadis.
The state government has said it is working to ensure there is no power cut during the peak summer season. However, as the mercury rises, the daily electricity consumption in Kerala has touched 100.35 million units (mu) on April 17, a new record for the state as per the electricity board.
Odisha government has also ordered the closure of all schools (government and private) up to class 12 along with all the Anganwadi Centre on April 19 and 20.
What Is A Heat Wave?
A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperature, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India, states the National Disaster Management Authority.
According to the IMD, the threshold for a heat wave is met when the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40 degrees Celsius in the plains, at least 37 degrees Celsius in coastal areas, and at least 30 degrees Celsius in hilly regions, and the departure from normal is at least 4.5 degrees Celsius.
Is Climate Change Resulting In Heat Waves?
Speaking to NDTV, Dr Naresh, Senior Scientist, IMD said,
Long-term study is needed to determine whether the change in weather is due to climate change.
Dr Naresh said that there is a possibility of change in the weather every year. He added,
We have to see the data of 30 to 40 years to review whether climate change has an effect or not. It is true that temperatures are rising globally but there is a difference in the temperature every year. Last year, there was a very strong heatwave in March-April. The reason for this was that Western disturbance did not come. When the weather is dry then the temperature rises.
Several parts of India are forecast to witness hotter-than-usual weather through June.
Dr Naresh said,
If we talk about March this year, all the western disturbances that came, gave rain only to Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. The plains remained dry and the temperature was abnormal.
What Are The Health Impacts Of Heat Waves?
The nature of the health impacts of heat wave depends on multiple factors including the timing, intensity and duration of exposure to the extreme hot temperature. As per the National Disaster Management Authority, the health impacts of heat waves usually involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The signs and symptoms include:
- Heat Cramps: Ederna (swelling) and Syncope (Fainting) generally accompanied by fever below 102°F
- Heat Exhaustion: Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and sweating
- Heat Stroke: Body temperatures of 104°F or more along with delirium, seizures or coma. This is a potentially fatal condition. A heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. The body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down.
The World Health Organisation states,
Temperature extremes can also worsen chronic conditions, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease (conditions that affect blood flow and the blood vessels in the brain) and diabetes-related conditions. Heat also has important indirect health effects. Heat conditions can alter human behavior, the transmission of diseases, health service delivery, air quality, and critical social infrastructure such as energy, transport, and water.
Importantly, the rising global ambient temperatures affect all populations but “some populations are more physiologically or socio-economically vulnerable to physiological stress, exacerbated illness, and an increased risk of death from exposure to excess heat”, states WHO. These include the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, outdoor and manual workers, athletes, and the poor.
According to a UNICEF report titled “The Coldest Year Of The Rest Of Their Lives: Protecting Children From The Escalating Impacts Of Heatwaves”, 559 million children are currently exposed to high heatwave frequency (where there are on average 4.5 or more heatwaves per year).
The report estimates that by 2050, all of the world’s 2.02 billion children are expected to be exposed to high heatwave frequency, regardless of whether the world achieves a ‘low greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with an estimated 1.7 degrees of warming in 2050 or a ‘very high greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with an estimated 2.4 degrees of warming in 2050.
Additional Impacts Of Heat Waves
“Heatwaves can burden health and emergency services and also increase strain on water, energy and transportation resulting in power shortages or even blackouts. Food and livelihood security may also be strained if people lose their crops or livestock due to extreme heat”, explains WHO.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.