India braces for intense heatwave conditions during election period

India braces for intense heatwave conditions during election period

New Delhi | India is likely to experience extreme heat during the April to June period with central and western peninsular parts facing the worst impact, the India Meteorological Department said on Monday as the country prepares for the mammoth seven-phase general elections starting April 9.

Addressing a press conference, Union Minister for Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju said India is anticipated to experience extreme weather conditions in the upcoming two-and-a-half months and this coincides with the general elections in which around a billion people are expected to exercise their franchise.

"It is going to be very challenging for all of us. Since we are the most populous country in the world and face extreme weather conditions, it makes it absolutely necessary for India to prepare in advance," he said.

The anticipated increase in outdoor activities during the 2024 general elections, which will take place in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, could heighten public vulnerability to heat waves, according to Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, the director general of meteorology at the IMD.

With greater exposure, there's an elevated risk of heat wave-related health issues among the electorate and poll staff, he said.

The IMD chief said above-normal maximum temperatures are likely over most parts of the country in the April-June period, with a high probability over central and western peninsular India.

Above-normal heatwave days are likely over most parts of the plains during the April-June period. Ten to 20 days of the heat wave are expected in different parts of the country against the normal of 4 to 8 days, he said.

Gujarat, central Maharashtra, north Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, north Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh are likely to experience the worst impact of heat waves, Mohapatra said.

The intense heat could strain power grids, impact winter-grown crops and result in water shortages in parts of India.

Mohapatra, however, said the increase in temperatures will not have any impact on the harvest-ready wheat crop.

"Even if temperatures go above 35 degrees Celsius, there will be no impact in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

"Temperatures are around 37-40 degrees Celsius in Madhya Pradesh at present and are likely to go up to 42 degrees next week. Since 90 per cent of the wheat harvesting in the state is over, there will be no effect," he said, citing data from the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

An early onslaught of heat waves impacted the wheat crop in India in 2022, with production declining to 107.7 million tons from 109.59 million tons in 2021. This prompted the country, the world's second-largest wheat producer, to ban exports.

The live storage in the 150 important reservoirs in India has dropped below the 10-year average, according to the Jal Shakti Ministry.

The live storage of the reservoirs in south India has dipped to 73 per cent of the 10-year average, data shows.

An official from the Union health ministry said an advisory has been issued to states with respect to mass gatherings, based on the learnings from an extreme heat-related incident in Navi Mumbai last year.

The Met Office said above-normal maximum temperatures are likely over most parts of the country in April, with a high probability over central south India.

Normal to below-normal maximum temperatures are likely over some parts of the western Himalayan region and northeastern states in April, the IMD said.

Above-normal heat wave days are likely over many areas in central India and the adjoining areas of northern plains and south India in April, it said.

"Two to eight days of heat wave are expected in the above regions against a normal of one to three days," Mohapatra said.

Gujarat, Maharashtra, north Karnataka, Odisha, west Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are predicted to experience the worst impact of heat waves in April.

Mohapatra said though the El Nino conditions -- the periodic warming of waters in the central Pacific Ocean -- are weakening, these will continue during April and May.

"It is in agreement with the forecast of above-normal maximum temperatures and heatwave conditions in India," he said.

The prevailing El Nino conditions fuelled record temperatures and extreme events the world over, with 2023 being the warmest on record. El Nino is associated with unusually dry and warm conditions over southeast Asia.

La Nina conditions -- associated with bountiful monsoon rains in India -- are likely to set in by the second half of the monsoon season, the IMD said.

Elevated temperatures pose significant risks, especially for vulnerable populations like the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions, who are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the IMD said.

Kiren Rijiju
Kiren Rijiju

Extreme weather predicted during Lok Sabha polls, preparation in advance crucial: Rijiju

New Delhi | India is predicted to experience extreme weather this year, starting at the end of April and coinciding with the general elections, making it crucial for all stakeholders to prepare in advance, according to Union Minister for Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju.

"We are expecting extreme weather conditions in the upcoming months. This also aligns with the general elections, where around a billion people are expected to vote," the minister said at a press conference on Monday.

Rijiju emphasised the importance of careful planning, especially after the second and third phases of the polls.

"All stakeholders, including state governments, have made elaborate preparations. Since India faces extreme weather conditions as the most populous country in the world, it is necessary for us to prepare in advance," he said.

Scientists attribute the increase in extreme weather events, including heatwaves, heavy rainfall, droughts and floods, to human-made climate change. These events are predicted to worsen as global average temperatures continue to rise due to the burning of fossil fuels.

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department, said the anticipated increase in outdoor activities during the 2024 general elections, which will take place in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, could heighten public vulnerability to heatwaves.

With greater exposure, there's an elevated risk of heatwave-related health issues among the electorate and staff, he said.

The government has adopted an integrated approach, involving the ministries of Jal Shakti, agriculture, health and power, to prepare for the extreme heat, he said.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member Kamal Kishore stressed the need for long-term solutions to address the increasing vulnerability of geographical areas to heatwaves, including constructing resilient buildings.

Mohapatra said the NDMA convened a meeting with technical institutions and experts on January 9 to review the lessons learned from last year's extreme weather events.

In February and March, the NDMA and the Ministry of Earth Sciences conducted annual workshops with officials from heatwave-prone states and union territories, focusing on key sectors such as health, water, agriculture, railways and civil society, to prepare for the upcoming challenges.

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