Heatwave in India: 4,620 deaths recorded in four years
Deadly heatwave in India claimed over 4,620 lives over the last four years. The severe weather condition caused a whopping 4,246 deaths in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana alone. Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) revealed about 1,600 died due to erratic weather last year. Severe heatwave killed 557 in 2016, 2,081 in 2015, 549 in 2014, and 1,443 (unified Andhra Pradesh recorded 1,393) in 2013.
Heatwave death figures across India worse than recorded
Gandhinagar-based Indian Institute of Public Health's Director Dileep Mavlankar said death figures across India could be even worse as causes other than direct reasons like dehydration and heatstroke are seldom accounted for. He added dehydration causes respiratory and renal failures, which especially claim the lives of infants and elderly. He said, in 2010, Ahmedabad recorded 65 heatwave deaths but there were 800 more deaths.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) started issuing heatwave alerts -temperature crosses 45°C- since 2016. If the temperature is 4-5°C above normal it is called 'heatwave' and 6-7°C above normal is termed 'severe heatwave'. With rising global temperatures, instances of the heatwave in India are increasing.
2016 the warmest year ever since 1901: IMD
The decade 1961-70 had 74 severe heatwave days on an average; the figure fell to 34 during 1971-80. The number of severe heatwave days recorded between 1981-1990 and 1991-2000 was 45 and 48, respectively. Last decade, 2001-10, with 98 heatwave days is one of the warmest decades recorded. With every year increasingly witnessing warmer climates, the current decade is racing towards becoming the warmest.
The "obvious reason" behind severe heatwave
Former IMD Director General Laxman Singh Rathore said global warming is the "obvious reason" behind severe heatwave. In summer, "an upper-air anticyclone over Rajasthan and Gujarat" sucks hot dry desert air and transports it to Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha, which witness maximum heatwave deaths. Former IMD Scientist AK Jaswal said the heatwave subsides once the anticyclone moves to the Arabian Sea.
MoES Secretary M Rajeevan's statement
"Last year, states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana came up with a strategy to minimize deaths. This year, we have added states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Delhi and Haryana and (have) given them several Dos and Don'ts."
States asked to follow the 'Ahmedabad pattern'
This year, the Centre and states came up with an action plan to minimize heatwave-related deaths. In a recent seminar, attended by several state representatives and NGOs, stakeholders resolved to restrict the figures to double digits. To minimize casualties, states were asked to follow the Ahmedabad pattern comprising measures like alerting hospitals about the kind of patients they should expect to stock medicines accordingly.