Agri Business

Early onset of heat wave poses new challenges for India, notes UN ESCAP

Global consultancy RMSI has estimated that severe cyclone Asani, which hit Andhra Pradesh, may have caused a potential loss of ₹2,500 crore with a maximum impact on agriculture (₹2,000 crore).

Pushpendra Johari, Senior Vice President–Sustainability, RMSI, told BusinessLine that Asani brought heavy rain and strong winds, severely impacting crops such as mango, banana, turmeric and papaya on thousands of acres in Kadapa, Kurnool, Prakasam, Krishna and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Early heat waves

Meanwhile, Bangkok-based UN ESCAP quoted scientists proposing that early heatwaves from March this year may have been triggered by persisting North-South low-pressure patterns over India during winter when a La Niña occurs in the Pacific.

Satellite-derived surface temperatures over India, Pakistan on April 29, 2022. (Adam via Antonio Vecoli, Axios Generate)

Satellite-derived surface temperatures over India, Pakistan on April 29, 2022. (Adam via Antonio Vecoli, Axios Generate)

Earlier in 2015, a harsh summer saw a heatwave engulf much of Central and North-West India and East Pakistan resulting in thousands of fatalities, notes Sanjay Srivastava, Chief, Disaster Risk Reduction, UN ESCAP. This led to development of heat action plan in Pakistan. India’s heat action plans have reduced heatwave related fatalities from 24,223 between 1992-2015 to just 4 in 2020.

Ahmedabad, first city

Ahmedabad in India was the first South Asian city to develop and implement a city-wide heat-health adaptation plan in 2013 after experiencing the devastating heatwave of 2010. Since then, this has been implemented in 23 heatwave-prone States in India, protecting more than 130 cities and districts, notes Srivastava. But the early onset of heatwaves poses new challenges with States such as Maharashtra already having recorded 25 fatalities from heatstroke since March this year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Sixth Assessment Report highlights how heatwaves and humid heat stress in South Asia could become more intense and frequent this century. UN ESCAP estimates the intersection of aridity with projected temperature rise will throw up distinct hotspots as in this year.

Regional/sub-regional action plans

Considering the transboundary nature of heatwaves, a regional/sub-regional heat action plan capturing all regional/sub-regional specificities will be an effective tool, Srivastava said. The Global Heat Health Information Network, a joint venture of the WHO and WMO, is an important initiative in this direction.

The South Asia Heat Health Information Network works to share lessons and raise capacity across the South Asia. The South Asia Climate Outlook Forum helps to prepare consensus based seasonal climate information on regional scale that provides a consistent basis for preparing national-level outlooks, he added.

Published on May 13, 2022