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UPSC Sansad TV: AIR- Staying Safe during heat waves



  • Heat wave occurs when a region experiences an extended period of exceptionally high temperatures, often surpassing the average for that time of year.
  • This phenomenon is typically instigated by a persistent high-pressure system, which acts as a lid, trapping warm air beneath it and preventing the dissipation of heat.
  • Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions, are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses during these periods.
  • Heatwaves can have widespread environmental repercussions, including stress on ecosystems, reduced agricultural yields, and an increased likelihood of wildfires due to dry conditions.
  • To combat the adverse effects of heatwaves, governments and communities implement measures such as heat action plans, the establishment of cooling centers, and efforts to mitigate climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Health Impacts of Heat Waves:

  • Heatwaves can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, where the body’s ability to regulate its temperature is overwhelmed. Symptoms include profuse sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and even loss of consciousness.
  • High temperatures and excessive sweating can cause dehydration, especially if fluid intake is insufficient. Dehydration can lead to electrolyte imbalances, which may result in muscle cramps, headaches, and in severe cases, organ damage and failure.
  • Heat waves can worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The combination of heat and air pollution can exacerbate breathing difficulties, leading to increased hospital admissions and respiratory distress.
  • The strain of extreme heat on the cardiovascular system can trigger heart-related problems, particularly in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Heatwaves may increase the risk of heart attacks, arrhythmias, and other cardiovascular events.
  • Prolonged exposure to high temperatures and discomfort during heatwaves can impact mental health, contributing to stress, anxiety, irritability, and sleep disturbances.

Reasons why India is experiencing more heat waves are:

  • Climate Change: Rising global temperatures are making heatwaves more frequent and intense.
  • Urbanization: Cities in India are getting hotter due to urban growth, trapping heat.
  • Deforestation: Loss of trees reduces natural cooling, raising temperatures.
  • Air Pollution: Pollution traps heat, making heatwaves more severe.
  • Water Scarcity: Drought worsens heatwave impacts, affecting agriculture and health.

Major initiatives of the Government towards combating climate change:

  • National Solar Mission: A flagship initiative aimed at promoting solar energy adoption and increasing solar power capacity in India.
  • Green India Mission: A national program focusing on afforestation, reforestation, and conservation of forest ecosystems to enhance carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.
  • Perform, Achieve, and Trade (PAT) Scheme: A government-led initiative to improve energy efficiency in industries by setting energy consumption targets and incentivizing efficient practices through tradable energy-saving certificates.
  • National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): A comprehensive framework comprising eight national missions addressing various aspects of climate change adaptation, mitigation, and resilience across sectors such as energy, agriculture, water, and forestry.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM): A scheme aimed at promoting solar power adoption among farmers by providing subsidies for setting up solar pumps, solarization of agricultural feeders, and installation of solar panels on barren lands.

Way Forward

  • Localized Climate risk atlas at national scale level.
  • We have technology but need to work on R and D to reach our targets.
  • Identifying heat hot-spots through appropriate tracking of meteorological data and promoting timely development and implementation of local Heat Action Plans with strategic inter-agency co-ordination, and a response which targets the most vulnerable groups.
  • Review of existing occupational health standards, labour laws and sectoral regulations for worker safety in relation to climatic conditions.
  • Policy intervention and coordination across three sectors health, water and power is necessary.
  • Promotion of traditional adaptation practices, such as staying indoors and wearing comfortable clothes.
  • Popularisation of simple design features such as shaded windows, underground water storage tanks and insulating housing materials.
  • Advance implementation of local Heat Action Plans, plus effective inter-agency coordination is a vital response which the government can deploy in order to protect vulnerable groups.
  • Democratization of climate data.
  • The real challenge is to get other developed countries on board.
  • Ban on single use plastic will be one of the game changer
  • We should not treat climate change as an environmental problem but need to address it as developmental challenge.
  • Investment in R&D is needed to spur innovations in sustainable climate-friendly and climate-proof productivity, and the private sector can help on this.
  • India’s ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions require strong political will, meaningful engagements and sustainable plans.
  • Climate finance can prove to be a compelling financial tool to align India’s growth with various climate change measures.
  • All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the net-zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

SANSAD TV 5-6-24