Heat wave claims over 600 lives

Odisha, Andhra request Centre to recognise heat wave as natural calamity
Heat wave claims over 600 lives

Since April 1, more than 600 persons in India have been killed by the deadly heat wave that has enveloped the country. One of the most affected states, Andhra Pradesh, reported 542 fatalities as the temperature hovered above 45°C across the state. However, heat waves that have claimed 1,300 lives (deaths directly attributed to sun stroke in official records) between 1998 and 2012 are yet to be recognised as a natural calamity.

Criteria for declaring heat wave
 
Heat wave onset is considered only after maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C in the plains and at least 30°C in hilly regions

When normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C
  • Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5°C to 6°C
  • Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7°C or more
When normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C
  • Heat Wave Departure from normal is 4°C to 5°C
  • Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 6°C or more
When actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more, irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat wave should be declared.

Source: India Meteorological Department
 
Shift in heat wave pattern
Official records downplay deaths
Ahmedabad gets its act together
 
In May, 2010, as many as 51 persons in Ahmedabad, mostly senior citizens, died of sunstroke when the mercury rose to 46.5°C. City administrators consider the year as an eye opener; they witnessed humble shanties turning into solar ovens, causing sunstrokes. They set to work to tackle the problem. This year, the city municipal corporation has launched a heat action plan which is said to be one of the “first comprehensive early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events in India”.

The plan “creates immediate and longer-term actions to increase preparedness, information-sharing, and response coordination to reduce the health impacts of extreme heat on vulnerable populations.” The plan includes issuing alerts, especially to the communities mostly exposed to heat, which includes construction workers and slum dwellers. Thereafter, activation of the “cooling places” such as malls, temples, night shelters for those without access to electricity or water during the peak summer season and stopping all the unnecessary usage of water. The plan also seeks to monitor daily temperatures and other indicators to issue alerts well ahead of time.

According to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation officials, the plan has already being implemented as steering committees have been created in most of the municipal wards, while various dos and don'ts have been issued to schools and other institutions to beat the heat wave. The plan also calls for monitoring various heat wave induced health ailments.

For two years, a number of organisations collaborated to formulate the plan for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The consortium included global environmental research think tank, Climate and Development Knowledge Network, National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (USA) and Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University (USA).
 

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