Editorial: Measures To Tackle Deadly Heat Must Be Put In Place

Editorial: Measures To Tackle Deadly Heat Must Be Put In Place

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, May 31, 2024, 11:17 PM IST
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Representative Image | File

This week caps a record-breaking summer temperature of 52.9°C in Mungeshpur in Delhi and consistently extreme temperatures of mid-to-high 40° across north, northwestern and northeastern India. The last also saw heavy rain and a cyclone. Reports show that the sustained severe heat has claimed at least 60 lives across India this week including a 40-year-old migrant worker in Delhi whose living quarters did not even have a fan. Nearly 16,000 across the country have been affected by heat stroke or heat-related illnesses. By all accounts, extreme heat and heat waves should be treated as a natural disaster on par with natural calamities such as floods, urban floods, earthquakes and landslides.

There is no reason for the National Disaster Management Authority to drag its feet over this because it is well aware of the situation and has, in fact, taken steps to hold workshops for states to prepare heat action plans. Lakhs of poor Indians are grappling with high heat in homes made with aluminium sheets and devoid of ventilation; at least 330-350 million Indians are outdoor and informal workers consistently exposed to high heat. Many of them are low-caste too which increases the heat stress on them. Heat waves are a climate emergency and must be tackled as such.

In the immediate wake of rising temperatures, it is imperative that state and local governments take short-term mitigation measures such as sending out alerts on time, staggering work hours to keep people indoors, providing public cooling shelters and drinking water, opening up gardens and parks for people to find some respite in. However, these are reactive and crisis-oriented. The long-term strategy to beat the rising heat waves, which studies show are becoming intense and frequent, is to plan and build cities that are heat-resilient with a lot more green areas without hacking down trees which are nature’s heat busters, zoning land use to prevent densities, reviewing construction materials which trap and increase heat inside buildings, and making as many surfaces as possible permeable in cities.

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