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Environment Health

With Intense heat predictions for India, special coping mechanism needed

ANM Desk

After 2023, which was the hottest year ever in the recorded history, India braces for yet another hot year as India Meteorological Department (IMD) has raised a red flag, forecasting temperatures higher than normal and prolonged heat waves from April through June for the summer 2024. With prediction of below normal monsoon and above normal day and night temperatures along with intense and long spells of heat waves the summer 2024 are set to bring in some predictable challenges for health and water scarcity. This announcement also serves as a crucial heads-up for citizens and authority’s alike, indicating potential challenges in coping with the intense heat across vast swathes of the country.

Long lasting and intense heat wave predicted

Dr. Mrityunjay Mohapatra, the Director General of IMD, emphasized the likelihood of longer-lasting heatwaves, a departure from the typical 8-10 day duration. States including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Odisha are identified as particularly susceptible to these extended periods of scorching temperatures. Such conditions not only pose health risks to vulnerable groups but also strain critical infrastructure, including power grids and transportation systems.

The IMD’s advisory also draws attention to thunderstorm activities triggered by the excessive heat, indicating potential for further weather-related disruptions. This aspect is underscored by recent events in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, where a storm wreaked havoc, resulting in casualties and injuries. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the tangible impacts of extreme weather events on communities and underscores the need for proactive measures to enhance resilience and response capabilities.

In response to the forecasted thunderstorm activities, authorities are on high alert, closely monitoring developments in northeastern states such as Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. Timely communication and preparedness efforts are essential to minimizing the potential impacts on life and property.

Challenges from intense heat

April till June are the month when India witnesses the hot months with temperature hovering around above 40 during the day couple with heat wave conditions. The problem with the current predictions are the long spell of heat wave lasting up to 20 days as against the usual of 4 to 8 days. The other problem is the above normal Day and night temperature and the shortening of gap between the maximum and minimum temperature. Such weather conditions brings in multiple health risks and need special preparations as a coping mechanism.

 Health Risks: Prolonged heatwaves can lead to an increased risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, particularly among vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

 Infrastructure Strain: Extreme heat conditions can strain critical infrastructure such as power grids and transportation systems, leading to disruptions in services and potential safety hazards.

 Economic Impact: Heatwaves can have economic consequences, including decreased productivity in outdoor industries, increased demand for energy for cooling purposes, and potential damage to crops and livestock.

 Environmental Impact: Prolonged heatwaves can exacerbate environmental issues such as drought, wildfires, and air pollution, impacting ecosystems and biodiversity.

 Social Disparities: Vulnerable communities, including those living in urban heat islands and lacking access to cooling resources, may face disproportionate impacts from heatwaves, exacerbating existing social inequalities.

As the IMD’s warnings echo across the nation, it is imperative for individuals, communities, and authorities to heed the advice and take proactive steps to safeguard against the adverse effects of extreme heat and associated weather phenomena. Through collective action and resilience-building initiatives, India can navigate through the challenges posed by the impending hot weather season and emerge stronger and more prepared for future climate-related adversities.


Coping mechanism of the Impact of Prolonged Heat Waves

With the India Meteorological Department (IMD) warning of above-normal temperatures and prolonged heat waves across various regions of the country, it becomes imperative for individuals, communities, and authorities to adopt proactive measures to mitigate the potential adverse effects. Here are some solutions and precautions that can be taken:

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially during peak heat hours. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as they can contribute to dehydration

Cooling Measures: Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day and use fans, air conditioners, or coolers to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Seek out air-conditioned public spaces if necessary.

Protective Clothing: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to reflect sunlight and allow for better air circulation, reducing the risk of heat-related illnesses.

Limit Outdoor Activities: Minimize outdoor activities, especially strenuous exercises, during peak heat hours. If outdoor work is unavoidable, take frequent breaks in shaded or cooler areas.

Check on Vulnerable Individuals: Keep an eye on elderly neighbors, children, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, who are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Ensure they have access to adequate cooling and hydration.

Create Shade: Plant trees or use umbrellas and canopies to create shade in outdoor spaces. This helps reduce surface temperatures and provides relief from direct sunlight.

Cooling Centers: Identify and utilize cooling centers in your area, especially for those without access to air conditioning or proper cooling facilities at home.

Stay Informed: Stay updated with weather forecasts and advisories issued by the IMD and local authorities. Be aware of heatwave warnings and take necessary precautions accordingly.

Hygiene Practices: Maintain good hygiene practices to prevent heat-related illnesses. Take cool showers or baths to lower body temperature, and use wet towels or cloths to cool down.

Emergency Preparedness: Have an emergency plan in place in case of heat-related emergencies. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and seek medical attention immediately if necessary.

Community Support: Engage with local community organizations and authorities to establish heatwave response plans and support systems for vulnerable populations.

Infrastructure Resilience: Enhance infrastructure resilience to withstand extreme heat conditions, including upgrading power grids and transportation systems to minimize disruptions.

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