NEW DELHI: The extreme heat that has battered India for weeks has affected 70 percent of the country, the weather department said on Friday, with scorching temperatures affecting the livelihoods of millions in the region.
Heat waves are common in India, especially in May and June, but the increase in temperatures started earlier this year. Last month was the hottest March that the country has experienced in decades, with heat waves sweeping the Indian subcontinent for weeks.
The World Meteorological Organization warned earlier this week that extreme heat driven by climate change in India and Pakistan was affecting the health of millions of people, animals and crops.
“Seventy percent of India and 30 percent of Pakistan are affected by the severe heat wave,” Dr. R. K. Jenamani, senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department, told Arab News. “Compared to past temperatures in March, this year was the highest in the last 72 years. April has also been very extreme compared to the past and many stations recorded temperatures of 45 to 46 degrees Celsius — much higher than normal.”
The heat wave has affected power supplies in parts of the country. Authorities in the national capital region of Delhi, where the mercury level rose above 40 C, warned that a power crisis is imminent.
In the western state of Gujarat, the health secretary Manoj Aggarwal told media on Friday: “We have issued an advisory to hospitals to set up special wards for heat stroke and other heat-related diseases due to the rise in temperatures.”
Akshit Sangomla of the Center for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based think-tank, told Arab News that agriculture has already been affected by the heat in 16 of India’s 28 states.
“Wheat crops in the northern state of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have already suffered,” he said. “The heat wave caused the grain to shrivel.”
In cities, the heat is making it difficult for residents to go about their daily lives.
“It’s very tough to venture out on the street and fulfill professional commitments,” Rajat Sharma, a food delivery worker, said. “I have never experienced this kind of heat in April.”
While the Met forecast that the weather should improve next week, the current situation is unprecedented.
“Earlier, heat waves (affected smaller areas), like north India or east India, but this time the heat wave is covering large parts of the country simultaneously, and this is not normal at this time (of year),” G. P. Sharma, the main weather forecaster at Noida-based Skymet Weather Services, told Arab News.
“This might turn out to be one of the hottest Aprils on record.”