Not sure, but March of the year 2022 was the hottest March month in the last 120 years. Not only this, according to the Lancet Countdown Report on Health and Climate Change, more than 46000 deaths in the year 2019 were related to extreme temperatures.
Due to these facts, experts believe that in view of the way the heat is increasing, a strong system of early warning of heatwave is very important and it should be taken to all the cities by giving it a more comprehensive form.
To discuss this issue, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Climate Trends, Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar, Mahila Housing Trust and the Indian Meteorological Department organized a virtual dialogue on Wednesday. The theme was to build climate resilience for the most vulnerable groups to extreme heat and strengthen preparedness and better response to extreme heat in India.
NRDC Chairman and CEO Manish Bapna, while referring to the actual situation of increasing temperature in the world, said that the world’s target is to keep the increase in global temperature below 1.5 °C but at this time we are expecting 2.7 °C global temperature increase. Moving towards.
He said that in India, we are battling with a mix of interconnected threats. These include extreme heat, air pollution, severe drought and floods. NRDC is working towards advancing more equitable health preparedness. In 2013, we helped implement the Heat Action Plan in Gandhinagar. This was the first action plan of its kind in South Asia. This included systems of early warning and coordinated response. This plan should also be implemented in all other cities of the country.
Dr. Mrityunjay Mohapatra, Director General of the Indian Meteorological Department, while referring to the issues of real time monitoring, forecasting and early warning in the country, said that a lot of progress has been made in the country in recent years regarding early warning of heatwave. As a result of the heat action plan at the city and district level, the number of deaths due to heat has come down in the country after the year 2015.
He said that the Meteorological Department is doing a lot of work regarding early warning of heatwave in the midst of rising heat. In the northern regions of the country, early warnings regarding heatwaves are sent through email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and press releases to users such as NDMA, health department, railways, media and road transport at the metrological sub-division level.
Dr Dilip Mavalankar, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar, said that the increase in temperature affects the health of humans, animals and plants. We have to protect ourselves by adapting to the temperature.
Emphasizing on the need to change the system of early warning of heatwave in India, he said that like in western countries, working people in India should also have to set the scale of work as to how they will work in the scorching heat. We should make ‘threshold based local warning system’ in cities.
Dr Mavalankar said that if a person is working in direct sunlight and the temperature rises by 4-5 degrees, then his health will be affected and he may get heat stroke. At that point his chance of survival remains only 60%. The number of heat stroke cases reported in India is only the ‘tip of iceberg’ because unlike western countries, India does not report ‘all cause daily motility’.
Significantly, in the year 2019, 46,600 people aged 65 years and above were killed in India due to exposure to extreme heat, the health pressure due to extreme heat is for elderly people, people living in cities and heart and lungs. As well as people living in slums and low-income communities, it is becoming fatal for people suffering from serious diseases. With the increasing impact of heat on public health, Indian experts are working to increase resilience at the local level by strengthening forecasting, public awareness and government responses to this threat. Heat action plans based on detailed heat forecast and early warnings help protect vulnerable populations from this acute threat and improve public awareness of heat-related health risks.
In the past few weeks, temperatures have started rising to alarming levels in many parts of the country. In some areas, the maximum temperature was felt by 4 to 8 degrees Celsius above normal. More hot and dangerous conditions are predicted in the coming months. Extreme heat is not only inconvenient, but it is also becoming a more deadly threat globally. In such a situation, having a strong system of early warning of heatwave has become not a necessity but a necessity from the point of view of public health.