Title: Rising temperatures across the country – a growing concern.
Nagpur, one of the beautiful cities in the central India was in the news recently for reaching the highest temperature in the last 100 years. Traditionally, Nagpur has always been known for being a city with extreme temperatures where winters are as cool as 7’deg Celsius and summers way higher than the forties. Yet a look at the highest temperatures of Nagpur and the adjacent cities in the last decade shows alarming statistics where almost all the temperatures records from the last 100 years have been broken. Similar trends have been observed in various other cities of India like Churu in Rajasthan, Mussourie in Uttarakhand, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and some parts of Telangana. While the heat wave in Nagpur has already rumored to have killed five people, the numbers are estimated to rise as most part of the Indian summer is yet to be experienced. Long term data gathered from the IMD’s 103 weather stations highlight a dramatic increase in temperatures from 1961 to 2010. Which brings us to the fact that, along with scarcity of water and erratic rainfall, the rising temperatures across the country is one of the serious environmental issues which needs to be dealt with immediately.
India – the Deccan plateau.
Geographically, a major part of central India is occupied by the large Deccan plateau extending to eight Indian states and encompassing a wide range of habitats. The plateau is located between two mountain ranges, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats almost converging at the southern tip of India. The plateau, already receiving very less rainfall due to the tall Western Ghats blocking the monsoon rains, is known for its arid and dry weather. Also, the black regur soil spread across the major part of the plateau is known for absorbing heat and keeping it intact leading to rise in the ground temperature. Add to it, the increase in urbanization, industrialization, pollution and uncontrolled destruction of forests – we have a sure shot formula for hotter summers with higher temperatures.
The year 2015 witnessed one of the most severe heat waves of all times where rise in temperature resulted in the death of at least 2500 people. Though officials warn that the death toll would be much higher as a large number of heat related deaths in rural India are not reported. The state of Telangana was the worst hit with the estimated death toll was around 1735. Deaths happen due to extreme dehydration, sun strokes and in some cases heat induced diarrhea and vomiting. Majority of the deaths are related to daily wage workers, children, middle aged women, farmers and people working out in the open rather than the interiors of their offices.
Summer and heat waves:
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), a heat wave is qualified when air temperatures reach at least 40 °C (104 °F) in the plains or greater than 30 °C (86 °F) in the hilly regions. Temperatures greater than 46 °C (114.8 °F) are considered and classified as severe heat waves. The last decade between 2001 and 2010 has been found to be the warmest for India and indeed for the rest of the world. During the 2015 heat wave, the temperatures recorded in Khammam in Telangana was 48 degrees Celsius on May 23, 2015 while Allahabad city saw temperatures reach 47.7 degrees Celsius. In most of India’s celebrated hill stations including Mussorie, Shimla, Darjeeling, Dalhousie and Chail temperatures have risen by more than five degrees in the summer months during the last five decades according to government figures.
The top ten hottest cities with their temperature as of 20th April 2017.
What the experts say:
Scientists believe that one of the main reasons for these heat waves is the occurrence of El Nino which occurs in the Pacific coast of South America and adversely affects the Indian monsoon resulting in less rain and corresponding higher temperatures. Also, the amount of carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have increased 40% since pre industrial times. The total amount of carbon human beings emit should not exceed 800 gigatons, but by 2011, 531 gigatons had already been emitted. Add to this the glacial melting and increasing deforestation adversely impacts rainfall and water cycles. The UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned that north and west India will face increase of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius in temperature while south India will face an increase in tropical night.
Increasing temperature and erratic rainfall can lead to increase in weather related calamities like the torrential rainfall that hit Uttarakhand in June 2013 and the heavy rainfall that caused flooding of the Jhelum river in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014 causing large human destruction. Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development warned that 54,000 glaciers in the Himalayas could create glacial lakes which would rupture their banks and destroy the surrounding infrastructure and agriculture. India is still extremely ill prepared to deal with sudden natural calamities. Lack of infrastructure and planning, unavailability of other sustainable resources can lead to huge loss of life, flora and fauna. At the same time, there can be severe draught situations which can again impact the agricultural produce and also lead to diseases, health issues and malnutrition.
A way forward:
The solution for controlling rise is temperature should as much be a global initiative as it should be local Indian. The first and foremost challenge for India is to find out as much green and eco-friendly solutions to their requirements as possible. Reduction in the use of fossil fuels for industrial and house hold consumption can have a major impact in controlling temperature. Plus, the government should have strictest measures for controlling cutting down of forests and uncontrolled urbanization of hill stations and cities. Use of electric driven vehicles and reducing the commuting distance should be next in line. Lastly, progressive agriculture and new forest development also can help in controlling rainfall and holding water to help reduce the temperature.