• | 2:35 pm

IMD warns of searing heat amid elections this summer

The extreme weather conditions coincide with the upcoming seven-phase general election, raising concerns about public health and voter turnout

IMD warns of searing heat amid elections this summer
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) this week warned of extreme heat conditions across India between April and June, a period when the country is holding its general election.

India’s official weather forecaster predicted 10-20 days of heatwaves during the period, when compared with the usual 4-8 days, even as various regions including West Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Vidarbha, Telangana, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam, and Maharashtra recorded average maximum temperatures of 40-42 degrees Celsius this week.

Union minister for earth sciences Kiren Rijiju said at a press conference that preparations are essential as nearly a billion people will vote in the seven-phase elections, especially after the third phase when weather conditions are likely to worsen.

“It is very important that our ministry, along with other stakeholders, brief the people of the country and let them know that we have to take proper precautionary measures to not only face the extreme weather conditions but also to take part in the electoral process,” Rijiju said.

The scorching heat could strain power grids, harm winter crops, and worsen water shortages in some regions.

For agriculture, extreme temperatures and heatwaves can make the soil drier, with lesser microbial activity and salt buildup, and also reduce productivity.

Reduced supply of water can also lead farmers to opt for poorer quality water that affects the yield, according to a report by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general at IMD, said the heatwave won’t affect the harvest-ready wheat crop.

A Union health ministry official also shared that an advisory had been issued to the states to emphasize the importance of early warnings for public health, specifically discouraging large gatherings, citing learnings from an incident in Navi Mumbai last year where 11 people had died of heat stroke at the Maharashtra Bhushan Award ceremony.

In the state of Karnataka, temperatures as high as 40.6°C and 40.2°C were recorded in Kalaburagi and Bagalkot districts, respectively, even as the city of Bengaluru observed its hottest day in March in five years with the temperature reaching 36.6°C last Friday amid an ongoing water crisis.

As the temperature soars, so does electricity consumption. State-run power producer NTPC Ltd reported on Sunday that it generated over 422 billion units of electricity in fiscal 2023-24, a 6% increase from the previous year.

In September 2023, the power producer hit its highest-ever single-day generation, producing 1,428 million units.

El Nino’s effect and La Nina’s arrival

The weakening El Nino phenomenon, known for causing dry and warm conditions, is expected to persist through April and May, contributing to the predicted heatwaves.

However, the IMD forecasts a transition to La Nina, typically associated with good monsoon rains, by the latter half of the monsoon season.

The IMD highlighted the dangers of high temperatures for vulnerable groups like the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions who are more susceptible to heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses.

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