Record-Breaking Heatwave Scorches India, Sparking Health and Economic Concerns

India is experiencing a severe heatwave, with temperatures above 44°C in 13 places, disrupting daily life and prompting health warnings. The heatwave is expected to persist until May 5-6, with hospitals reporting a surge in heat-related illnesses and experts warning of further cases.

Dil Bar Irshad
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Record-Breaking Heatwave Scorches India, Sparking Health and Economic Concerns

Record-Breaking Heatwave Scorches India, Sparking Health and Economic Concerns

India is in the grip of a severe heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in at least 13 places, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The eastern and southern regions of the country are bearing the brunt of the record-breaking temperatures, which have prompted health warnings and disrupted daily life for millions of people.

Why this matters: The severe heatwave in India has far-reaching implications for public health, the economy, and the country's vulnerability to climate change. If left unchecked, heatwaves can lead to significant losses in productivity, food security, and human life, underscoring the need for urgent action to mitigate their impact.

Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh recorded the highest maximum temperature of 46.3 degrees Celsius (115.3 degrees Fahrenheit), followed by Boudh in Odisha at 44.6 degrees Celsius (112.3 degrees Fahrenheit) and Khammam in Telangana at 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). The conditions, forecast, persist until May 5-6 before abating.

IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra warns, "Above-normal temperature, including heat waves, is expected to be experienced at a higher frequency in April-June period of 2024 as compared to the preceding years." The IMD predicts above-normal maximum temperatures in most parts of the country in May, with a significantly high number of heat, wave, days expected over the northern plains, central region, and adjoining areas of peninsular India.

The absence of thunderstorms and an anticyclone at lower levels over the west central Bay of Bengal and the adjoining eastern coasts of India have contributed to the prolonged heatwave spell. This has caused discomfort to hundreds of thousands of voters who had to cope with the searing heat during the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 26.

The heatwave's impact on public health is a growing concern, with hospitals, see, related, cases across the affected regions reporting a surge in patients suffering from heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Dr. Brunda MS, Consultant Internal Medicine at Aster CMI Hospital, reveals, "On average, 50% of patients admitted to Aster Whitefield Hospital in Bengaluru daily are suffering from heat-related issues."

Experts caution that the number of cases will continue to rise if proper precautions are not taken and early signs and symptoms are not addressed immediately. Dr. Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Internal Medicine specialist at Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, warns, "We are anticipating a significant rise in patients resulting from heat waves related illnesses, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where patients generally lack understanding of the importance of keeping themselves hydrated during this season."

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is surveilling all states to gauge the impact on health and has asked them to organize a task force meeting for updating and approving a del, heat action plan. The health ministry has also trained district officials to bring to notice any health complications arising from extreme heat conditions.

Hospitals across the affected regions are preparing to scale resources to ensure continued high-quality care during the heatwave. Dr. Dr. Ritesh Yadav, Senior Consultant Internal Medicine at Paras Health, advises,"We advise precautions against the heat and urge people to seek medical attention immediately if they experience any heat-related symptoms."

The heatwave is expected to have a significant impact on the economy, particularly in the agricultural sector. Economists warn that the extreme temperatures can stoke food inflation, which was already at a high of 8.5% in March, by hurting the output of vegetables and fruits, leading to higher retail prices. A UN study suggests that India can lose 5.8% of working hours, equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs, by 2030 as a result of the impact of heat stress, potentially hurting labor production.

As India struggles with the ongoing heatwave, the country's vulnerability to extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, poses significant challenges to public health, agriculture, and the economy. Addressing these issues will require a concerted effort from the government, healthcare providers, and the public to mitigate the impact of heatwaves and build resilience against future climate-related risks.

Key Takeaways

  • India is experiencing a severe heatwave with temperatures above 44°C (111°F) in 13 places.
  • Eastern and southern regions are most affected, with temperatures expected to persist until May 5-6.
  • Hospitals are seeing a surge in heat-related illnesses, with 50% of patients admitted daily suffering from heat issues.
  • The heatwave is expected to impact the economy, particularly agriculture, and may stoke food inflation.
  • Climate change exacerbates India's vulnerability to extreme weather events, posing significant challenges to public health and the economy.