DC Edit | Hot weather can be a killer
The climatic conditions have changed in such a bizarre way that schools were shut for hot weather as well as rain in the month of June. This was a most unusual experience for a city like Chennai that usually experiences very little rain in June, whereas Kerala should already have been celebrating the first heavy spells of rains of the southwest monsoon, but is suffering from heat and humidity.
As the monsoon plays truant in an El Nino year, as reflected in its setting in over many parts of southern and western India much later than usual, cyclone Biparjoy is being blamed for spoiling its path. How deficient the southwest monsoon will be, and on which most parts of India are so dependent for food grain, crops and water, may determine many things, including GDP growth. This is a variable that few have been able to predict with any degree of accuracy, with optimism being a guiding principle more than what observation and the crunching of weather data may suggest.
But, long before we contemplate how erratically the monsoon may be expected to behave in an El Nino year, there is the heat to consider as a super hot summer is leading to the deaths of many vulnerable people, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, as scores of them are succumbing to weather marked by extremely high wet bulb readings. The question is what can be done to prevent such deaths.
Medical analysis seems to suggest that the extreme heat and humidity are exacerbating the existing preconditions in the health of the elderly and the vulnerable leading to deaths that are now being increasingly attributed to heat. While many countries with very hot summer weather distribute the working hours in a day to try and minimise the effect of heat, most Indians who work in the informal sectors have little protection against the sun. Also, the vulnerable have to scrounge even for minor utilities like fans and uninterrupted power supply to help stave off the heat.
While extreme weather events are leading to deaths, save in advance warning situations like cyclones during which time people are evacuated from the most unsafe locations, it is India’s plight that the summer climate is hastening the end of the lives of many people, generally the poorest and the least protected. It is a tragedy that as a nation we seem to be able to do very little about it.