Thursday, 4 June 2015

Heat Waves in India

What is a heat wave? 


  • It's a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India. 
  • Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July. 
  • India's Heat Wave is now the 5th deadliest heat wave of history
  • The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has given the following criteria for Heat Waves:
    • Heat Wave need not be considered till maximum temperature of a station reaches 
      • For plains - 40C
      • For hills - 30C

Heat Wave Condition as per definition given by IMD
S.No.
Normal Maximum Temperature of place (in Celsius)
Heat Wave would be declared if this much temperature (in celsius) is above the normal
Severe Heat Wave would be declared if this much temperature (in celsius) is above the normal
1
Less than or equal to 40
5-6
7
2
More than 40
4-5
6
3
Actual Maximum Temperature is 45 or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature
Heat Wave declared without any condition
Heat Wave declared without any condition
  
Why in news?


  • The heat waves in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Telangana and other states have killed 2300+ people by June 4 2015. 
  • The 2015 heat wave had the highest recorded temperature since 1995
  • Heat waves happen every year in India during the dry season and before the Monsoons give relief but 2015 heat wave is exceptionally hot and it has taken a very high toll in few days only. 
    •  Andhra Pradesh, Telangana,Punjab, UP, Odisha and Bihar suffered worst.
  • No lessons learnt from earlier heat waves every year or specific years where more deaths happened like:
    • 1998 - Orissa, 
    • 2003 - Andhra Pradesh
    • 2010 - Bad affect on Ahmedabad + global Heat wave took thousands of lives. 
  • Indian Meteorological Department issued “red box” warnings for Odisha, Jharkhand and coastal Andhra Pradesh, signalling high chances of heatstroke, dehydration and fatality with temperatures inching upwards of 45°C and conditions worsened by constant dry, sweltering winds.
    • The “red box” warning by IMD refers to high chances of heatstroke, dehydration and fatality with temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius, worsened by a constant dry wind. 
Why it is happening so in 2015?
  • Pre-monsoon showers - less
    • brought less moisture leaving parts of India dry and arid.
    • They suddenly ended
  • El-nino
  • Climate Change
    • According to IPCC report also: Heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying

Precautions taken:

    • Drinking water, Oral rehydration salts and intravenous fluids are made available at public places
    • Emergency medical camps
    • Awareness campaign advising citizens to not leave their homes at noon unless absolutely necessary
    • No alcohol, caffeine or aerated drink

Affects
  • Poultry industry is sensitive to heat waves with high bird mortality rate
  • The worst affected are poor, ill and old to which even the disaster management authorities have admitted
    • Isn't it mockery of these people when we advice them to remain indoors for several hours, drink plenty of water (and buttermilk), wear only cotton clothes and so on? How will a daily wage labourers, drivers of non-air-conditioned vehicles, delivery services’ personnel, workers in industrial units where high temperatures are a constant, the homeless and the destitute to follow this “well-intentioned” advice?
  • Others who get affected
    • People without enough nutrition, medicines and doctors, shelter and unawareness of government schemes
  • All above leads to morbidity and mortality
  • Possible health hazards
    • Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are the two major risks posed by high-temperature conditions. 
    • Nausea and heat cramps, resulting in rapid rise of the body temperature.
    • Dehydration (absence of adequate water within the body). The symptoms of this are:
      • Headaches, 
      • dizziness
      • Nausea are some of the symptoms
    • Heat Cramps: Edema (swelling) and Syncope (Fainting) generally accompanied by fever below 39*C i.e.102*F.
    • Heat Exhaustion: Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and sweating.
    • Heat Stoke: Body temperatures of 40*C i.e. 104*F or more along with delirium, seizures or coma. This is a potential fatal condition
Added misery
  • Power outages and breakdowns are also common
  • Developing countries are more affected because of:
    • Poverty
    • Inequality
    • Lack of public infrastructure
    • Poor sanitation
    • Inability of public bodies to address the symptoms
Solution
  • Examples of solutions
    • Plan of Ahemdabad Municipal Corporation
      • Disseminating public information about risks and mitigating measures, using social media, 
      • Establishing a warning system including what-to-do measures for governmental agencies, 
      • Training of health professionals to respond quickly and effectively,
      • Adapting the city’s infrastructure to deal with extreme temperatures. 
    • Odisha also took few steps in this direction of  awareness-raising campaign
  • Declare Heat Wave as Disaster
    • 2013: the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) requested the Prime Minister to include heat waves in the list of natural disasters. 
      • The task was assigned to Group of ministers who could not reach to any conclusion. 
  • Coordination of different government agencies needs improvement
  • Better data collection
  • Control following
    • Unthoughthful and haphazard urbanisation
    • Vehicular pollution
  • Better housing facilities
  • Keep afternoons free
    • Work schedules, specially which involved physical labour need to be changed


Graphic Courtesy: The Indian Express, Mithun Chakarborty

Conclusion
  • In times of Climate Change the heat waves are expected to intensify and spread more.
  • We need to give more importance to this issue and have sense of urgency.
  • We will be denying our citizens the right to life also if we don't control it. 


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