Extreme heat affects millions in India and Pakistan

As extreme heat batters large parts of India and Pakistan, the two countries are scrambling to roll out vital health action plans to combat the heatwave, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced. mentioned Friday.

extreme heat affects hundreds of millions of people in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, threatening to damage entire ecosystems.

Working closely with health and disaster management agencies, the national departments of meteorology and hydrology in both countries plan to roll out heat action plans, which have been successful in saving lives in recent years, the United Nations weather agency said in a statement. statement.

Cascading impacts

Extreme heat has multiple and cascading impacts not only on human health, but also on ecosystems, agriculture, water and energy supplies, and key sectors of the economy.

WMO reiterated his commitment to “ensure that multi-hazard early warning services reach the most vulnerable”.

Heat health action plans

India and Pakistan have succeeded heat-health early warning systems and action plans already in place, including those specifically tailored to urban areas.

They reduce heat-related mortality and mitigate the social impacts of oppressive heat, including loss of productivity at work.

Important lessons have been learned from the past and are now being shared among all partners of the WMO co-sponsored Global Heat and Health Information Network, to build capacity in the hard-hit region, said the WMO.

Intense heat to continue

The Indian Meteorological Department said maximum temperatures reached 43-46°C in wide areas on April 28 and the intense heat will continue until May 2.

Similar temperatures were also seen in Pakistan, with daytime temperatures likely to be between 5C and 8C above normal across large swathes of the country, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said.

They also warned that in the mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkwa, unusual heat levels would accelerate. melting snow and icewith the possibility of triggering floods of glacial lakes – or flash floods in vulnerable areas.

Air quality has also deteriorated and large swaths of land are threatened by fires.

“Climate change” compliant

According to the WMO, “it is premature to attribute extreme heat in India and Pakistan only to climate change“, continues the agency” it is in line with what we expect in a changing climate.

In addition, heat waves are more frequent and intense and start earlier than in the past.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its recent Sixth Assessment Report, also stated that heat waves and damp heat stress would be more intense and frequent in South Asia during this century.

The current heat wave was triggered by a high pressure system and follows a long period of above average temperatures.

India recorded its warmest March on record, with an average maximum temperature of 33.1°C, 1.86°C above the long-term average.

Pakistan also recorded its hottest March in at least 60 years, with a number of stations breaking March records.

During the pre-monsoon period, India and Pakistan regularly experience excessively high temperatures, especially in May.

Action plans

India has established a national framework for heat action plans through the National Disaster Management Authority, which coordinates a network of state disaster response and city ​​leaders, to prepare for soaring temperatures and ensure everyone is aware of heatwave protocols.

The city of Ahmedabad in India was the first city in South Asia to develop and implement city-wide heat health adaptation in 2013 after experiencing a devastating heat wave in 2010. This successful approach was later expanded to 23 heat wave prone states and is being used to protect over 130 cities and districts.

Pakistan has also made progress in protecting public health from heat. In the summer of 2015, a heatwave engulfed much of central and northwestern India and eastern Pakistan and was directly or indirectly responsible for several thousand deaths.

The event served as a wake-up call and led to the development and implementation of the heat action plan in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan.

Typical plans ensure that the targeted intervention is appropriately tailored and designed for a city’s heat-vulnerable population.

It first identifies hotspots in the city, locates vulnerable populations in those pockets, and assesses the nature and state of their vulnerability to extreme heat.

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