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08 Jun 2017

India witnessing shocking increase in heatwaves

India reels under alarming heatwaves

India is witnessing increasing temperatures. Several deaths due to heatwave have already been reported; experts say more are likely.

Over the last five decades, a 0.5 degree Celsius rise in average temperature has led to a "pretty shocking" 150% expansion of heatwaves.

But India is set to register a 2.2-2.5 degrees Celsius hike by the end of the century.

In context

India reels under alarming heatwaves

How is a heatwave defined?

According to a report by researchers at the University of California published in the journal Science Advances, a heatwave is defined as three or more consecutive days of excessive temperature. It was based on temperature and data on heat deaths in India during 1960-2009.

India might face even worse situations


India might face even worse situations

Similar temperature rises are expected all over the world, says Steven J Davis, professor at the University of California.

The development "may make low-latitude developing nations in the Asian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa and South America practically uninhabitable during the summer months", said the report.

Since 2009, over 5,300 people have died in India due to heat; the numbers are increasing each year.

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The government is trying hard, researchers say

Access to air-conditioning can help, but countless Indians have no electricity. Many don't even get clean drinking water or shelter.

The government is aiming to electrify all homes by 2019. "But the population is also growing. It's not an easy challenge," says Amir AghaKouchak, a researcher.

Some cities have enforced heat action plans: emergency cooling centres, warnings in case of excessive temperature, and more.

20 deaths already reported this year


20 deaths already reported this year

The report comes after the US decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

This year, about 20 people have already died in Odisha and Gujarat, Davis observed. Heatwaves have increased from one every eight years to one every three years.

"We shouldn't be turning our backs on the world that is suffering these effects," he concluded.

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