India is in a race against time to tackle extreme heat

Time is running out. India is one of the most vulnerable to extreme heat stress, which is worsening due to climate change. A World Bank report warns that temperatures in India could cross the limits of human survivability in a few years. A peer-reviewed Lancet study last year found that deaths due to extreme heat between 2000-04 and 2017-21 saw a 55% rise. In 2022, the country saw a record number of heatwave days and there is consensus that we could see that number going up.

“India is now recording more intense, frequent heat waves that are also longer in duration,” says Roxy Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. “The seasonal outlook shows enhanced chances of heat picking up during April-May this year too.”

The Meteorological Department has forecast that most parts of the country will experience above normal maximum temperatures this summer. More heatwave days than normal are predicted for parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.

Yet, India’s primary public policy tool to respond to extreme heat—heat action plans—are riddled with gaps.

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India is in a race against time to tackle extreme heat