The daily fix: If India is to tackle disastrous heat wave, it must first recognise scale of problem


By Ipsita Chakravarty


Scientists say it is clear that climate change will cause more extreme weather events and record-breaking temperatures: 2014 was the warmest year in global temperature records that go back to the 1880s. Globally, the rise in heat-related deaths is stunning: from less than 6,000 in 1991-2000 to 136,000 in 2001-2010, says a National Disaster Management Authority report.


The government response to these disasters remains woefully inadequate. The problem begins with definitions. Neither the National Disaster Management Act of 2005 nor the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009, recognise heat waves as a natural calamity so few resources are allocated to dealing with them.

Besides, the government has been known to routinely underestimate heat wave tolls. It only counts heat strokes and heat wave deaths, which are underreported to begin with. It also ignores fatal physiological symptoms exacerbated by heat stress. These lacunae, in turn, have impeded better policies being framed to beat the heat, such as the development of early warning systems and public health preparedness.

According to the disaster management authority, 2010 was a “wake up call” for “intergovernmental action” and in 2016, a new action plan was drafted at the national level. It accurately identified many of the areas that required focus – the need to recognise it as a natural disaster, better data collection, issuing alerts, mapping out communities most at risk, setting up “public cooling places”.


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