You might have already seen the headlines about hundreds perishing in the 47˚C heatwave that still has India in its grip, but there’s more to the story (than an 8˚ difference between there and heat index in Manila). Here are 8 things you should know about the current situation:
This isn’t a one-off—heatwaves are a seasonal occurrence in India. Some regions get it worse than others, and combined with the high humidity in those areas, the actual heat index (that is, how hot it feels) is much higher than the recorded temperature.
This year’s heatwave reports the highest mortality rate since record-keeping began in the 1800s. The count is currently 11 deaths in Orissa, 13 in West Bengal, 231 in Andhra, 551 in Andhra Predesh, and an astonishing 800 in the capital, New Delhi. By our count, that leaves 1,606 dead in a single summer season, with most of them being from the poorer section of society—beggars, the homeless, and laborers who spend most of the day out in the sun.
According to The Hindustan Times, Monday May 25 hit a record high of 45.5˚C, a whole 5˚C higher than the average during this time of the year. The rising temperature and high mortality rate have so far not even merited a ‘national disaster’ statement from the Indian government, leaving us wondering if the central government or the National Disaster Management Authority has any preventive measures in place, or has any plans for the management of the damage, or relief to those affected.
Hitting highs of 50˚C and above, roads in New Delhi actually melted. If that isn’t alarming enough for you, here’s some trivia: human flesh starts cooking at 39˚C. The damage that 50˚C can do to a human being is frightening at best. Non-air conditioned taxis have been taken off the roads for five hours during the day since two drivers passed away from heatstroke, with unions urging their members not to work during the day to avoid the intense heat.
India’s current mortality rate could be even higher, given that the government is only tracking heatwave deaths according to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. The count could be even higher if they took into account the pre-existing illnesses that were triggered by the heatwave as the cause of death.
While the week’s temperatures have hit the ceiling (hopefully), India has been suffering through weeks and weeks of this kind of weather, resulting in droughts. Apart from this, only a third of India’s population has access to electricity as the nation struggles to keep up with its rapidly expanding cityscape. The few who do have access to fans and air conditioning have resorted to leaving them on for longer periods, putting even more stress on already overworked power grids.
Some meteorological officials have stated that the heatwave was brought on by a lack of rain, and while the monsoon season is set to come in, it could be weeks before any rains reach the north of India, which tends to get more dry and humid than the south. The government has warned that the heatwave will continue on for the next few days, and while the temperatures may drop a few degrees, still encourage people to stay indoors, wear hats if they must go outside, and to stay hydrated. They have also appealed to NGOs and other organizations for assistance in getting water and juice to the communities.
Climate change is a very real thing, and is one of, if not the most important environmental crisis that human beings as a species face. Temperatures worldwide will only rise in the coming years, and the Philippines could indeed experience heatwaves similar to India’s. With temperatures hitting record highs and water reservoirs reaching critical levels, It’s high time that the government develops a Heat Action Plan similar to the city of Ahmedabad. Instead of, you know, charging people more for electricity and water like they usually do.
How do you feel about India’s heatwave? How do you think the Philippines should plan for the future? Share your thoughts with us!