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No Relief From Heatwave In Many States, Rajasthan's Barmer Sizzles At 48.8 Degrees

The punishing heat is straining power grids and drying up water bodies (Representational)

New Delhi:

Large parts of India sweltered under a heat wave for the seventh day on the trot on Thursday, with the mercury soaring to 48.8 degrees Celsius in Rajasthan’s Barmer, the highest temperature recorded in the country this year so far. Official data showed that at least 16 places in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh recorded maximum temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius or above on Thursday.

The brutal heat wave will continue for at least five more days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

In Rajasthan, Churu logged a high of 47.4 degrees Celsius, Phalodi 47.8 degrees, and Jaisalmer 47.2 degrees.

Maximum temperatures settled at 46.6 degrees in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna, 45.9 degrees in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, 45 degrees in Uttar Pradesh’s Orai, 45.4 degrees each in Punjab’s Bathinda and Haryana’s Sirsa.

However, in Delhi, the maximum temperature dipped slightly on Thursday but remained around a notch above the normal for this time of the year. The IMD said the maximum temperature was recorded 0.8 notch above normal at 41 degrees Celsius.

The Met office issued a ‘red’ warning for Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and west Uttar Pradesh, emphasising a “very high likelihood” of heat illness and heatstroke in all ages.

It said warm night conditions could further exacerbate heat-related stress in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Rajasthan over the next three days.

High night temperatures are considered dangerous because the body doesn’t get a chance to cool down. Increasing nighttime heat is more common in cities because of the urban heat island effect, in which metro areas are significantly hotter than their surroundings.

The punishing heat is straining power grids and drying up water bodies, triggering drought-like conditions in parts of the country.

According to the Central Water Commission, water storage in 150 major reservoirs in India plunged to their lowest level in five years last week, exacerbating water shortages in many states and significantly affecting hydropower generation.

Severe and frequent heat waves are further burdening low-income households in the country, which often have poor access to water and cooling, and testing the endurance of outdoor workers toiling in the searing sun, forcing them to take frequent breaks.

Experts say outdoor workers, the elderly, and children are at higher risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,66,000 people died as a result of heat waves between 1998 and 2017.

India reported 3,812 deaths due to heat waves between 2015 and 2022, with Andhra Pradesh alone logging 2,419 fatalities, the government told Parliament in July last year.

People are less productive during hot weather, and children struggle to learn.

Shyamal Santra of the NGO Transform Rural India said studies show that students perform worse in tests when they experience a ‘hot school year’ compared to a ‘cool school year’.

“With 15 per cent of government schools in India not having a functional electricity connection and many being single-classroom schools, heat waves disproportionately affect rural educational outcomes,” he said.

In the absence of adequate cold-chain infrastructure, extreme heat can cause major damage to fresh produce.

Studies show India faces food losses worth USD 13 billion a year, with only four per cent of fresh produce covered by cold chain facilities.

According to a World Bank report, India could account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress-associated productivity decline by 2030.

With 75 per cent of workers in India experiencing heat-related stress, lost labour from rising heat and humidity could result in a loss of up to 4.5 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (equivalent to approximately USD 150-250 billion) by the end of this decade, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)