The summer heatwave that has killed more that 60,000 people in past four years, is once again all set to surge in India, researchers said. Increasingly scorching summers heat in India is leading to a big jump in heatwave deaths and much worse is likely to come.
A modest 0.5 degree Celsius rise in average temperatures in India over the last 50 years has led to a nearly 150% hike in heatwaves that kill at least 100 people, said researchers on Wednesday at the University of California in Irvine. But with India now on a path to between 2.2 and 5.5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise by the end of the century, the rate of heatwave deaths in India – and other Asian nations – could soar, scientists say.
Temperature is increasing day by day but India may not be prepared to face the heatwave. Only 9 states out of 29 states and 7 Union Territories have drawn -up heat action plans, according to the Natural Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Access to electricity – particularly for air conditioning – can help curb heat deaths, the study found, but about a quarter of Indians have no electric power, and nearly a quarter earn less than $1.25 a day, which can make electricity unaffordable.The poor are particularly hard-hit by heatwaves, researchers said, not only because many lack power but also because they often struggle to access clean drinking water and shelter from the heat, and may have health conditions aggravated by high temperatures and limited medical care.
“Access to air conditioning and electricity is key to address heat-caused mortality and that requires significant investment,” said Amir AghaKouchak, one of the report’s authors. “India’s government is trying, they’re doing great. But the population is also growing. It’s not an easy challenge.”
An ongoing heatwave in the Indian states of Odisha and Gujarat has killed nearly 20 people in recent days .
The findings, the researchers said, are “a wake-up call to governments and international organisations to devote resources and efforts to improving the resilience of areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change”.
As the United States prepares to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, “we shouldn’t be turning our backs on the world that is suffering these effects”, Davis said.