Climate scientists on Tuesday, 26 April, warned of an unusually early heatwave to hit north-west India, and many have compared the heatwave conditions with a popular sci-fi disaster book called The Ministry for the Future by American author Kim Stanley Robinson.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast that heatwave conditions are very likely to happen in Gujarat and east India over the next four-five days and would hit central and north-west India from Wednesday.
Experts have also predicted extreme heatwave conditions in Pakistan later this week.
The Ministry for the Future begins with the protagonist Frank May who is experiencing a devastating heatwave and high humidity in India. With soaring temperatures, prices of air conditioners shoot up and subsequently, power outages leave the country grappling to protect itself from the killer heat.
The heatwave eventually kills 20 million people in northern India.
Many have drawn parallels with the extremity of the heat and humidity described in the novel as heatwaves in the past decade have been increasingly intense, killing hundreds every year in India.
John Gibbons, an associate at climate change think tank E3G said, “If this sounds eerily familiar, it’s because it’s basically the opening scenario in The Ministry for the Future.”
“Not that far short of the horrifying first chapter of The Ministry of the Future,” said James Murray, the editor of Business Green, a United Kingdom website focusing on green business news and analysis.
Record High Scorching Temperatures
Temperatures in New Delhi may peak at 44-45°C this month while other parts of India could witness temperatures as high as 46°C. Heatwave warnings have been issued with public health experts warning that extreme heat so early in the year is particularly dangerous.
In West Bengal, the local government has advised schools to shift classes to the cooler morning hours and stock up on oral rehydration salts, in case children become sick in the heat. Some schools are even moving classes online, so children don’t have to venture outside in blistering conditions. Meanwhile, in Odisha, higher education classes have been stopped completely.
Meanwhile, temperatures are expected to rise to a record high of 50°C in Jacobabad, Pakistan, which is one of the hottest places on the planet.
Climate scientists have blamed increase in global heating and human activities to be the cause of intense heatwaves every year.
Dr Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said, “India's current heatwave has been made hotter by climate change that is the result of human activities like burning coal and other fossil fuels. This is now the case for every heatwave, everywhere in the world. Until net greenhouse gas emissions end, heatwaves in India and elsewhere will continue to become hotter and more dangerous."
Meanwhile, Dr Dileep Mavalankar, Director, Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar (IIPHG), has advised people to be aware of the latest advisories, stay indoors and rush to the nearest health centre in case of illness.
“This is a very early heat wave and these normally have a higher rate of mortality since adaptation and preparedness is lower during these months of March and April. The central, state and city governments should also focus on this, especially when IMD alerts are in orange and red and they should put out warning advertisements in newspapers, TV and radio to warn the public."
He added that the forecast is warning signal for what is to come in May and June and effective measures need to be taken to prevent deaths.
(With inputs from The Independent.)