UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 2 May 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the heatwave event and concerns.

Syllabus: GS-III Disaster management


  • A heatwave is declared when the maximum temperature is over 40° C and at least 4.5 notches above normal.
  • A severe heatwave is declared if the departure from normal temperature is more than 6.4° C, according to the IMD.
  • India has been in the grip of what seems like an eternity of heatwaves.
    • April temperatures over north-west and central India are the highest in 122 years.
    • During April 1 to 28, the average monthly maximum temperature over northwest India was 35.9° Celsius and the same over central India was 37.78° C.

Causes of heatwave:

  • The proximate causes for the searing heat are an absence of rain-bearing Western Disturbances, or tropical storms that bring rain from the Mediterranean over north India.
  • Cool temperatures in the central Pacific, or a La Niña, that normally aid rain in India, too have failed to bolster rainfall this year.
  • Despite five Western Disturbances forming in April, none was strong enough to bring significant rain and depress temperatures.
  • The IMD has forecast a ‘normal’ monsoon or 99% of the Long Period Average (LPA) of 87 cm and is expected to forecast the monsoon’s arrival over Kerala later in May.
    • On the surface, there is no direct bearing between the intensity of heatwaves and the arrival and performance of the monsoon.
  • While individual weather events cannot be linked to greenhouse gas levels, a warming globe means increased instances of extreme rain events and extended rainless spells. 

Impact of heatwaves:

  • Mortality and Morbidity: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Second Part of AR6 Report flagged that heat extremes are causing human deaths and morbidity.
  • Crop Damage: The fallout of these heat waves is far more complex – the concurrence of heat and drought events are causing crop production losses and tree mortality.
  • Labour Productivity Loss: A higher urban population also implies heat-induced labour productivity loss, resulting in economic impacts.
  • Wildfires and Droughts: The Lancet report, 2021 showed that populations of 134 countries experienced an increase in exposure to wildfires with droughts becoming more widespread than ever before.

Way Ahead:

  • The official toll due to heatwaves in the last 50 years is put at over 17,000 people, according to research from the IMD.
  • The heat island effect means urbanisation adds degrees to the already searing conditions; and so, heatwave deaths must be treated as a disaster that merits compensation.
  • Private and public workplaces too must be better equipped to factor heatwave risk. 

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