Dealing with a summer of climate discontent - Hindustan Times
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Dealing with a summer of climate discontent

ByHT Editorial
Jun 16, 2024 08:40 PM IST

The way this summer has unfolded may well be a sign of things to come when rising global temperatures are expected to make such weather extremes routine

Deadly forest fires, illness-inducing temperatures even after sundown, a loss of earnings for businesses as well as daily wage earners, and water shortages — the blistering summer this year has exacted a toll on millions of people across northern India, where many cities have now been under a meteorological red alert. The warning — declared for the north-northwest band of the country, starting from northern Rajasthan and Punjab and stretching to Bihar in the central-east of the country — says that there is a very high likelihood of heat illness and heat stroke in people of all ages.

The blistering summer this year has exacted a toll on millions of people across northern India, where many cities have now been under a meteorological red alert (AFP)
The blistering summer this year has exacted a toll on millions of people across northern India, where many cities have now been under a meteorological red alert (AFP)

These months have also been dry, triggering a spate of forest fires in the mountains of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Estimates suggest snow cover that feeds India’s lifeblood rivers such as the Ganga has been at its thinnest since 2003, and data released by the government’s reservoir management authority separately shows the country’s water storage, especially in the north, is far lower than what is usual for this time of the year.

In the Capital, the heatwave has brought to light the dire consequences for the most vulnerable populations. Residents are experiencing high temperatures in a narrow band of 10.7°C, offering little relief even during the night. This prolonged exposure is linked with severe health impacts, including headaches, dehydration, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Then there is a significant economic impact on the city’s street vendors, who have reported a loss of income and a decline in customer numbers. In a recent study, nearly 50% of such vendors reported a loss in earnings and 71% said they struggled to access medical help in such circumstances.

The way this summer has unfolded may well be a sign of things to come when rising global temperatures are expected to make such weather extremes routine. To address these issues, the authorities need to implement heat action plans more stridently. Policies to protect the vulnerable, their health and livelihood are crucial — and solutions need to include immediate financial assistance as well as new public infrastructure to mitigate heat stress. Action is needed before it becomes too late.

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