India must urgently build heat resilience
This year, the government has already moved to form a panel to safeguard the yield, but as experts have argued, more long-term measures may have to be considered.
Delhi’s spring was once short but glorious. Weeks in February and March would see roundabouts overflowing with seasonal flowers, and residents out in public enjoying the salubrious weather. But the climate crisis appears to have put paid to that. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the Capital’s maximum temperature will likely remain above the 30-degree mark in the coming days, with the mercury set to touch 34 degrees Celsius by the end of the week. Two coastal districts of Karnataka also recorded the season’s first heatwave in an area where cool sea breezes moderate temperatures even in peak summer — indicating that rising temperatures were not just a localised phenomenon.
If this is how the weather will behave (there are indications that such variations will only increase), policymakers across the board — from housing to agriculture — must gear up for these changes and work towards resilience. In 2022, a scorching heat wave in March shrivelled wheat yield in the north and central Indian states. This year, the government has already moved to form a panel to safeguard the yield, but as experts have argued, more long-term measures, including exploring more heat-resistant varieties of wheat, may have to be considered. The State must also prepare citizens for heatwaves and work on a tabulating mechanism for heat-related deaths, while working on thermally comfortable infrastructure, especially for poor and marginalised people who have no choice but to venture outside even in extreme heat for livelihood. There are already indications that the government is focussing on this — on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review heat preparedness. With climate mitigation efforts stuck in geopolitics and funding knots, the only immediate remedy appears to be building heat resilience.