In the news: India is suffering from the effects of a heatwave. The death toll has already exceeded 2200. Most of the victims have been in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where temperatures have soared far above 40 degrees.
Commentary by Sudarshan Shetty, PhD student of Microbiology, from India
‘My state is about 600 kilometres away from the southern states where the heat is at its most intense, but even there it is now almost 40 degrees, and that is not normal. In other places temperatures have gone as high as 48 degrees.
The heat has the biggest impact on people who work out of doors. The problem is that now is precisely when a lot of outdoor work goes on, because the monsoon season is just around the corner. As soon as it starts to rain it will no longer be possible to lay roads and build bridges. Sadly, we do not have a systematic solution to this. In my town they have created shelters so that people can take breaks from their work to recuperate for a while. The school holidays have begun now in India, so normally children would play outside. But instead of that they are staying in all day playing video games. Animals are suffering from the heat too. We don’t know how many have succumbed to the heat already. Air conditioning is not common in India.
Aircos use too much energy. Many people hang wet clothes up in their houses to cool them down. Others keep on throwing water on their roofs. I read in a local paper about people who had put a grass mat on their roof as insulation.
There are several possible explanations for the big problems this year. Climate change could be playing a role, as well as the lack of preparation for these conditions. But we can’t just argue about the causes. We must take initiatives, and tackle the problem.