India is likely to experience heat waves between March and May, especially in the key wheat producing central and northern states, the weather office has said. “Enhanced probability of occurrence of heat wave during March to May season is likely over many regions of Central and adjoining Northwest India,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
India experienced its warmest February this year since 1877, the Indian Meteorological Department informed, as average maximum temperatures touched 29.54 degrees Celsius at several places. Experts are linking it to global warming and other factors that affect weather conditions, such as the El Nino effect.
The Met Department has cautioned that most parts of the country might experience above-normal temperatures, although, the southern peninsula and parts of Maharashtra are likely to escape the brunt of the harsh weather conditions.
Also read: Spring turns to summer as the heat hits India
Here’s what the IMD is saying
SC Bhan, Head, Hydromet and Agromet Advisory Services, IMD has, however, said that the chances of heatwaves in March are less, but did not rule out the chances of extreme weather conditions extending through April and May.
Linking the conditions to climate change, he said: “The entire globe is living in an era of global warming. We are living in a warming world.”
Despite some drought warnings coming in, Bhan said the average rainfall over the country is most likely to be normal in March. However, below-normal rainfall is expected over most areas of northwest India, west-central India, and some parts of east and northeast India; the rest of India, i.e., most parts of peninsular India, east-central India, and some isolated pockets of northeast India, is expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall this year.
Also read: El Niño scare, a hot February and monsoon worries
Stating that it is too early to forecast the impact of El Nino conditions on the monsoon season, he said currently, La Nina conditions were prevailing over the equatorial Pacific region, which may weaken and turn to El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) neutral conditions during the pre-monsoon season.
What’s the Health Ministry doing about it
The Union Health Ministry has issued an advisory listing the dos and don'ts for protection against the impending heat wave following IMD’s heat warning for 2023.
As part of a national action plan on heat-related illness, the ministry has advised citizens to avoid high-protein food and cooking during the peak summer hours besides asking them to not get out in the sun especially between 12 noon and 3 pm.
In the advisory, the ministry has also asked people to drink sufficient water whenever possible, even if not thirsty.
Health Ministry has asked people to use Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), and consume homemade drinks like lemon water, buttermilk/lassi, fruit juices with some added salt, and stay indoors in well-ventilated and cool places.
Residents have also been advised to consume fresh fruits such as watermelon, cucumber, lemon, and orange.
Wearing thin, loose, breathable cotton garments preferably light-coloured ones has been advised, along with covering the head using an umbrella, hat, cap, towel, and other traditional head gear during exposure to direct sunlight and not going out barefoot.
The Union Health Ministry has also asked people to watch out for symptoms of "heat stress" which include dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, headache, extreme thirst, decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine, and rapid breathing and heartbeat.
Citizens must call 108/102 immediately if they find someone with a high body temperature; and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating.
Motorists have been advised against leaving children or pets inside parked vehicles.
To block direct sunlight and heat waves, windows and curtains must be drawn during the day.
Advisory for states, UTs
The Union Health Ministry has written to all states and union territories and asked them to ensure that all their health facilities update information on heat-related illnesses and deaths on the designated portal.
Drawing attention to the "National Action Plan on Heat-Related Illnesses", the ministry has requested for dissemination of guidance document to all districts for effective preparedness of health departments and health facilities to address heat impact and management of cases arising because of it, record maintenance and surveillance, etc.
From March 1, daily surveillance on heat-related illnesses under National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH) in all states and districts will be conducted on the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP).
All states and union territories have additionally been asked to review health facility preparedness for the availability of adequate quantities of essential medicines, intravenous fluids, ice packs, ORS and all necessary equipment.
Availability of sufficient drinking water at all health facilities and the continued functioning of cooling appliances in critical areas must be ensured too.
Daily heat alerts must be disseminated promptly at the district and health facility levels.
State, district, and city health departments must ensure the implementation of heat-related health action plans.
Apart from the health risks it poses, another year of heatwave could also dent the production of wheat, rapeseed, and chickpeas, and dampen the Centre’s efforts to bring tackle food inflation in the country. India suffered its hottest March in more than a century last year and temperatures were unusually high in April and May too, mainly due to climate change.
March is the crucial month for the maturity of winter-sown crops and above-normal maximum temperatures could stress its yield.
A Mumbai-based dealer said: “Wheat crop has already been witnessing stress due to higher temperature. Warmer March would definitely lead to yield loss.”
That aside there are also chances of increased power consumption over and above supply capacity during the summer season.
(With inputs from PTI, Reuters)