NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Some 80% of Indian states are prone to heatwaves and most have plans ready to alter office and school timings as well as working hours for labourers to avoid the hottest time of day when necessary, a government official told Reuters on Friday.
India suffered its hottest March in more than 100 years and April saw many places, including New Delhi, recording unusually high temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius on most days. More than two dozen people have died of suspected heat strokes since late March, and power demand has hit multi-year highs.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has categorised 23 of India’s 28 states and some 100 cities and districts as being at risk of suffering extreme heat. Nineteen states have already made their own heat-action plans and some others are working on them, said NDMA’s policy and planning adviser, Kunal Satyarthi.
“There were only nine a few years back but currently 23 are recognised as heatwave-prone states,” he said. “Cities have become heat islands, so a lot of them are drafting their own plans.”
He said the plans include reducing people’s exposure to heat, arranging drinking water in public places and other interventions.
The western state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, has also planned to modify market hours, provide public shelters, sprinkle mist in public places and keep ice bags at public health centres, according to the NDMA website.
Long-term measures include planting more trees, rainwater harvesting, providing shelter for traffic police and using green nets for shade in market areas, it adds.
In a meeting with government officials on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that hospitals should regularly audit their fire safety measures given the extreme heat.
(Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing and additional reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)