Life in Mungeshpur, India’s hottest place, for now | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

Life in Mungeshpur, India’s hottest place, for now

By, New Delhi
May 30, 2024 11:36 AM IST

Around 3pm on Wednesday, the temperature in Mungeshpur hit 52.3°C. It was the hottest place in the city, also shattering India’s heat record

The streets are empty, the leaves still. The shops are shut, the windows all shuttered. The people are nowhere to be found. The only beings outdoors are dogs and cattle – both are weary, curled up in corners, in the shade.

A woman splashes water on her face on a hot summer day amid a searing heatwave in Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)
A woman splashes water on her face on a hot summer day amid a searing heatwave in Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

The ground is baking, parched for weeks. The crops are dry, many will soon wilt. It’s 2pm in Mungheshpur on Wednesday. A little over an hour later, the temperature in this village on Delhi’s northwestern fringe hit 52.3°C. It was the hottest place in Delhi, also shattering India’s historical heat record.

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“There is no way I can stand there for more than 15 minutes. Most farmers have also stopped planting the next crop, which is jowar, because it’s unlikely to survive in this heat,” said Ashok Kumar, a local farmer bathing his cattle.

“This is the third time in the day I am bathing my cows. It’s the only way they stay cool. The calves often start foaming from their mouths when they are out too long,” said the 55-year-old.

A few houses down the street, 74-year-old Om Prakash peeks out of his house, careful not to let too much of the sun onto his wrinkled face.

“When I was young, we would sleep on our roof in the summer. Now, you cannot even think of doing that,” he said.

“I fell ill last week and the local doctor said it was because of the heat. Now, I don’t go out before 6pm,” Prakash added.

The usually sleepy village finds itself in the limelight every few years nowadays. In 2022, the village found its name plastered across national headlines when the maximum temperature in May touched 49.2°C – then a record for the Capital.

This year has eclipsed the torment of that year.

“I have never, ever seen such heat,” said Prakash, who was born in Mungeshpur.

And in the inescapable, asphyxiating heat, a major chunk of the village has been starved of water. Most have had to rely on private water tankers that cost 2,000.

“In this heat, can you imagine how difficult it is to survive without water? It’s one of the reasons farmers are not going out onto their fields. Even if they do, there is not enough water for the crops to survive,” said Praveen Rana, 39, president of the village “Shiv Shakti Gram Sudhar Samiti”.

Rana, who also runs an ice-cream shop in the village, said it won’t be long before Wednesday’s temperatures are smashed by a fresh record.

“We have five village ponds and only one of them has water left now. That too, because we are pumping water through the ground. Soon, that too will be over,” Rana said, demanding that authorities intervene.

Prakash points to the line air-conditioners jutting out of nearly every home. Water coolers were much more common about two decades ago.

“If this is not a sign that it is getting hotter, I don’t know what is. Nearly 80% of the houses have an air-conditioner.”

The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) automatic weather station (AWS) has been set up at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya school, on the margins periphery of the village.

Though surrounded by school buildings on either side, the station itself is surrounded by green cover. The station itself sits on a bed of grass.

IMD in its evening bulletin said the maximum at Mungeshpur was 52.9°C, instead of 52.3°C, though it later backtracked on its own reading, suggesting it could be due to “error” or “local factors”.

In a statement, the agency said: “Mungeshpur reported 52.9°C as an outlier compared to other stations. It could be due to error in the sensor or local factors. IMD is examining the data and sensors.”

Union earth sciences minister Kiren Rijiju said such a reading in Delhi was “very unlikely”.

“It is not official yet. Temperature of 52.3°C in Delhi is very unlikely. Our senior officials in IMD have been asked to verify the news report. The official position will be stated soon,” he said.

Rana, for his part, said the station is checked fairly often

“The central parts of the village are actually far hotter than the school,” he said.

For now, the village is silent. Only the faint hum of air-conditioners cuts through.

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