Nagpur/New Delhi: The Second Capital City of Nagpur, notorious for its treacherous summer, has found a place in an ambitious programme India is launching to protect people from extreme heat after a devastating heat wave killed at least 2,500 people across the country last year. Nagpur is among the only two cities chosen for the fiery programme the other being Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of Odisha.
The programme will be launched over the next week in Nagpur, where temperatures hit a sweltering 47 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) last May, and in Bhubaneshwar, according to the New York-based National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, which helped the government devise the programme.
India experiences severe heat waves almost every year. With climate change bringing ever-rising temperatures, the country and its 125 crore people are bracing for even more challenging temperatures that dry up forests, destroy entire crops, wipe out farm animals and kill hundreds if not thousands of people who aren’t prepared.
By introducing seven-day weather forecasts, extra water supplies, cool-air shelters and afternoon breaks for workers, India hopes to avoid the high death tolls from heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke and dehydration. Many of those killed across the country, including more than 1,700 in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, were day-wage labourers and farmers so poor they said they could not take a day off despite the heat.
“We can take smart steps right now to shield millions of people from killer heat waves,” said Anjali Jaiswal, the NRDC’s India Director. “It’s clearly feasible and cost-effective to create similar heat preparedness plans across Indian cities and states.”
India’s heat wave risk is exacerbated by its dwindling water resources, with increasingly erratic monsoon rains unable to deliver enough water to replenish heavily tapped rivers and plummeting groundwater reserves.
Experts have warned that by 2030, India will face an extreme water crisis. By that time, they say, the country will have only half the water supply necessary for agriculture, industry and people’s needs such as water for cooking, cleaning and drinking.
The programme was previously launched in Ahmadabad in 2013, three years after some 300 people died from heat-related causes in the western city. Last year, after introducing seven-day weather forecasts, extra water supplies and cool-air shelters, only 20 people died in the city from such causes.