Whither Indian weather?
Whither Indian weather. It is both tragic and ironic that people whose forefathers worshipped sun and water should be among their worst victims, year after year. The heat wave has become a bigger killer than the floods that ravage some parts of India, annually.
India has experienced the world’s fifth-highest heat wave toll this year and the frequency and intensity of heat waves is going to increase in the future
It is both tragic and ironic that people whose forefathers worshipped sun and water should be among their worst victims, year after year. The heat wave has become a bigger killer than the floods that ravage some parts of India, annually.
Take extreme cases: River Brahmaputra is both the life-line and the biggest killer in Assam, while Bihar is known for the Chief Minister administering, simultaneously, the Drought Relief fund and the Flood Relief Flood. This year, the heat wave has registered 2,100 deaths and counting. Bulk of these casualties has occurred in Andhra Pradesh (1,636) and Telangana (541).
The 50 degrees Celsius temperature could deplete green cover, experts warn. That 40 per cent of victims are those employed with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) punctures deep and big holes in the claims of their uplift and of economic ‘miracles’ that the two state governments are promising, as they celebrate the bifurcation a year ago. The union government’s current celebrations are equally cynical.
The latest data clearly indicates that the worst is in store. As per Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by Belgium’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), India has experienced the world’s fourth and the fifth-highest heat wave tolls (2,541 in 1998 and 2,100 this year). This year may break the 1998 record.
And we are not even looking at the people, like in the Sub-Saharan Africa, where poor or no rain, drought and heat wave are part of everyday life. No doubt, it is a global phenomenon and climate change is contributing to it in a significant way. Europe saw 71,310 persons dying in 2003 and in 2010, over 55,000 died in Russia.
It was Europe, again, in the year 2006, at a mercifully low 3,418. While a developed Europe has managed to contain the damage, India, abjectly dependent upon rain and on rain-fed irrigation for its farm production, has not. Available data is inadequate.
Weather expert and founder of Weather Underground Jeff Masters writes, heat wave tolls are difficult to assess since excess heat is rarely cited as the primary cause of death, and less so if that aggravates the existing poverty-induced living and health conditions. Death, being killed like a fly, to use a popular phrase, is part of the lives of millions across the globe.
Monsoon is not yet in sight. Kerala, at the other end of the peninsula, is expecting first showers on Wednesday. The farmers would, since they have no choice, but can the governments wait with their hands stretched and eyes skywards. On paper, a lot is supposed to be underway. Disaster management machinery is in place from the national right down to the district levels.
But much of it remains on paper, any diligent official will privately concede. A study by researchers from IIT Bombay, TISS and Monash University, Australia, says the frequency and intensity of heat waves is going to increase in the future. It’s time to stop celebrating and start relief for the hapless heat wave victims.