India heatwave is challenging the life of the most vulnerable

Nearly 100 people have died in the heatwave in India that has badly hit millions of people who work under the blazing sun to earn their livelihood.

Kolkata, 21 June: Sudip Saha is a young freelance photographer based out of Kolkata, the state capital of West Bengal in eastern India. The 27-year-old sweats outdoors for several hours under the scorching sun to shoot awe inspiring visuals for his clients that hire him for the job.
He earns a descent income every month to run his family that includes his aging parents. He is passionate about his profession but the severe heat and humidity makes him feel that he has chosen a wrong source of livelihood that entails continuous exposure to the unrelenting weather, “The climate is simply unbearable now. It’s too hot to step outside the house during the day hours but my profession demands me to work continuously under the blazing sun. I was born in this city (Kolkata) but have never faced such torture of nature ever before,” he says adding that he has fallen ill due to extreme hot weather twice in the past one month.

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Sudip Saha in his work assignment in Kolkata © Gurvinder Singh

We used to hear about climate change and global warming but now it’s a reality before us. It’s difficult to survive in this inclement weather. I might switch to another job where I can work from the comfort of air-conditioners if the situation continues to remain the same. – Sudip Saha

He is, however, not alone to face the torturous climatic conditions but millions of people are facing the same predicament in India where the summers have been unusually harsh this year and monstrous heat waves have devoured several hundreds of lives across the country.

Nearly 100 dead in a heat wave

Around 100 lives have been lost in the sweltering heat wave over the last several days in two states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh which are among the most populous and poverty struck regions in India. Doctors said that most of the deceased were above 60 and had prior health ailments that were intensified due to severe heat wave conditions.

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People who work outdoors are the most affected by the heat wave © Gurvinder Singh

The serious impact of climate change could be gauged from the fact that the mercury in Delhi, nation’s capital crossed 46 degree Celsius, in May, this year.
The drastic rise in temperature has made life hellish for the country’s poor population, especially the daily wage earners, construction workers and millions of others who work under the sizzling sun to eke out their livelihood.
Manoj Pandey, a construction worker in Munger district of Bihar conceded that the rising cost of food materials has left him with no alternative but to work even at the cost of his life. The 34-year-old earns Rs 500 ($6) per day after working for 8-9 hours. “It is difficult to sit idle even for a day in the house as I am the sole bread winner of my family that comprise my four children, wife and mother. I have suffered from dehydration thrice in the past one month as the heat is strangulating me. The doctors have advised rest in this humid conditions but my family would sleep hungry if I stay at home.”

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Water scarcity becomes a serious issue in several areas of India during summers © Gurvinder Singh

The problem of heat wave is compounded by the severe shortage of water in several pockets of the country where the ground water level has plummeted to the lowest level and several tube wells are running dry forcing women to walk for longer distances for a pitcher of water that often results in skirmishes due to a huge gap between demand and supply.
Researchers have already indicated that India and China would be severely hit by water crisis with sectors like agriculture and manufacturing to bear the brunt of it.

Environment degradation

A study published by India’s top meteorologists in 2021 had found that heat waves have claimed more than 17,000 lives in the past 50 years.
The summer months from April to June are generally the hottest in most parts of India but the temperature have become more intense in the past one decade.

Environmentalists say that massive deforestation coupled with rise in green house gas emissions have been making the climate warmer with each passing year, “We are themselves to be blamed for the present condition as the global temperatures are rising due to massive deforestation and emission of green house gases has been making the planet hotter. India is likely to witness more such heat waves in the near future. The situation can only be reversed a bit if the environment is saved and more trees are planted,” pointed out Tuhin Subhra Mandal, an environmentalist based in West Bengal.

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Massive deforestation has taken a toll on environment © Gurivinder Singh

India has already promised to reach its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and to meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by the same year and also to bring its emissions to zero by 2070 in COP 26 in 2021. It’s now time to act on it before it becomes too late.

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