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Heatwaves in India

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis, Volcanic activity, cyclones, etc.


Source: DTE

 Context: A new report by the World Bank suggests India could soon become one of the first places in the world to experience heatwaves that break the human survivability limit.

India has witnessed a concurrent increase in meteorological droughts and heat waves over the last 60 years.


About Heatwaves:

A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that usually occurs during the summer season.

 About Human Survivability Limit:

The Human Survivability Limit refers to the rule of thumb, which states humans can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food.


Heatwave in India

  • In April 2022, India suffered an early spring heat wave that saw temperatures in New Delhi, topping 46 degrees Celsius.
  • The month of March, which witnessed extraordinary spikes in temperatures, was the hottest ever recorded.
  • The heatwaves would be devastating for many poor and marginalized communities across India, who live in inadequately ventilated, hot, and crowded homes without proper access to cooling.
  • Only eight per cent of Indian households own air-conditioning units, according to an analysis presented in the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), 2019. 


Negative effects of Heatwaves:

On Indian economy

  • By 2030, India may account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress-associated productivity decline.
  • Analysis by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company shows that lost labour from rising heat and humidity could put up to 4.5% of India’s GDP 

On food and public health

  • India’s long-term food security and public health securitywill depend on a reliable cold chain network. A single temperature lapse in the journey can break the cold chain, spoiling fresh produce and weakening the potency of vaccines.

Human Health

  • Heat conditions can alter human behaviour, the transmission of diseases, air quality, and critical social infrastructures such as energy, transport, and water.

Ecological impacts

  • Heatwaves, without concomitant increases in precipitation, can lead to water shortages and increased stress for plants, particularly in arid regions.
  • Animals are also highly impacted because of heat waves.


Way forward to sustainability

  • The most effective way to avoid the negative impacts of heatwaves is to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and minimising the rise in global mean temperatures.
  • New initiatives to create early warning and response systemsand improved communication approaches can help to save lives and build resilience to heat waves.
  • Decision-makers can employ a range of strategies and policies to modify social behaviour and reduce exposure to heat by closing schools or offices, which lack adequate air conditioning, ensuring availability of water, health care, and first aid, and extending access to pools, parks, and public cooling centers
  • Improved urban design and sustainable planning that increases access to green space and other cool environments (pools, air-conditioned spaces) and encourages white roofs.


Insta Links:


Prelims Link:

  • IMD criteria for Heatwaves
  • India Cooling Action Plan


Mains Link:

Q. What is a heatwave? Account for the increasing frequency and unprecedented heatwaves across multiple cities in India. 150Words