Home >Politics >Policy >IMD trains states to deal with heatwaves as temperatures rise

New Delhi: Anticipating a structural shift in the country’s weather, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) is training state governments to improve their mitigation preparedness to cope with the persistent heatwaves.

IMD has tied up with state disaster management commissioners and health secretaries to formulate plans in the face of large casualties from heatwave conditions. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), on its part, has prepared a standard operating procedure template and a sequence of actions to be triggered during a severe heatwave.

There were 1,111 deaths from heatwave conditions in 2016, compared with 2,040 in 2015. Temperatures across India have been rising on an average of 0.7 degrees every decade, according to IMD, with 2016 the hottest so far.

“Heatwave guidelines will facilitate the stakeholders in preparing a heatwave management and action plan by providing insight into the heat-related illnesses and the necessary mitigative and response actions to be taken," said Anup Kumar Srivastava, a consultant at NDMA.

“It will help in mobilizing and coordinating various departments, individuals and communities to protect themselves against avoidable health problems during spells of very hot weather," he added.

Heatwaves are defined as conditions triggered by the temperature rising to more than 45 degrees Celsius. When temperatures soar above 47 degrees Celsius, it is known as a severe heatwave.

According to IMD, March-May 2017 is expected to be relentless, with above-normal temperatures (up to 1.0 degree Celsius) likely to prevail over all meteorological sub-divisions of the country. Northwest India is expected to be most severely hit with temperatures likely to be in excess of 1.0 degree Celsius above normal.

“We disseminate information to the municipal corporation and the health departments of the various states, who in turn disseminate to the specific users, including the non-traditional service people," said S.C. Bhan, an IMD meteorologist associated with the programme.

The people most affected by heatwaves are the homeless, farmers, policemen, construction workers, postmen and vegetable vendors—i.e, those who live or work outdoors. Severe heatwave conditions in the past have resulted in school and college vacations being extended.

But with more people moving to cities and towns for employment and some 12 million people added to the job market every year, the profile of outdoor jobs is changing.

The most significant changes are seen in the service industry, with an explosion of outdoor jobs such as couriers and food delivery services to those offering services at home, such beauty treatments and repair services.

IMD’s two-day awareness programme that ended on Wednesday is aimed at helping such service providers and their employers plan their mitigation programmes better. This, in turn, is expected to maximize productivity.

“IMD will be providing weather forecasts for three days in advance on heatwave conditions so people with outdoor jobs can plan their day accordingly" and take precautionary measures, said Dileep Mavalankar, director at Gandhinagar-based Indian Institute of Public Health.

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