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  • Cold trap: Severe winter keeps killing Indians as govt drags feet on policy

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Cold trap: Severe winter keeps killing Indians as govt drags feet on policy

Source(s):  Down To Earth

By Rajit Sengupta


More than 30 people are reported to have died in Uttar Pradesh due to the extreme event that broke several records. On December 28, Nagaland received a surprise snowfall after more than 40 years and Bihar’s capital Patna recorded its second coldest day in the decade. Two days later, Delhi recorded its coldest December day when the maximum temperature dipped to 9.4 degree Celsius. It was 11.4°C below normal. On the last day of the year, Nowgong and Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh too recorded coldest day temperatures, which were 15.2°C below normal.


It [number of cold waves] was 200 the next year [2018], as per Envistats 2019 report, released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The two years account for nearly half of all the cold wave events recorded between 1980 and 2018. This is a cause for concern as cold wave has lethal impact on human health. During the 39 years till 2018, cold waves have killed 8,169 people. This is almost 200 deaths a year. Another worrying trend is that in 22 of the 39 years, cold waves have killed more people than heat waves in India.


Unlike most other notified natural disasters, including floods and droughts, NDMA is yet to come up with any detailed guidelines exclusively on cold waves. Guidelines are essential for laying down the broad framework under which state governments can prepare their action plans to mitigate the impacts. But all that NDMA’s 384-page National Disaster Management Plan for 17 natural disasters offers is a sketchy two-page list of do's and don'ts to prevent and mitigate the impact of cold wave and frost on humans, animals and crops.


Health risks due to cold wave also heightens in areas where air pollution is severe. A 2018 study conducted by researchers from Banaras Hindu University and St Johns Medical College in Bengaluru has found that mortality increases by 30 per cent during extreme temperature days. This increases by another 8 per cent during winters in areas with high concentration of air particulates (PM10) compounds.


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  • Publication date 16 Jan 2020

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