Brutal heat in parts of India, IMD forecasts further rise; red alert for six states

Commuters walking in New Delhi.

New Delhi: The intense heatwave in India continued on Wednesday, with temperatures reaching 48 degrees Celsius in Barmer, Rajasthan, the highest this year.

Water levels in the Yamuna River in Delhi dropped, affecting water supply. The city’s power demand hit a record 8,000 megawatts due to the extensive use of air conditioners and coolers.

At least 24 locations in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh recorded temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius or higher. The India Meteorological Department predicted a further rise of three to four degrees in northwest India over the next few days and issued a red warning for Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and west Uttar Pradesh, warning of a high likelihood of heat illness and heatstroke.

High night temperatures, particularly in urban areas, exacerbate heat-related stress due to the urban heat island effect. The severe heat is straining power grids, drying up water bodies, and triggering drought-like conditions in parts of the country. The Central Water Commission reported that water storage in 150 major reservoirs dropped to a five-year low, worsening water shortages and impacting hydropower generation.

Between 2015 and 2022, India reported 3,812 heatwave-related deaths, with Andhra Pradesh accounting for 2,419 fatalities. Heatwaves reduce productivity and learning, with a World Bank report estimating that India could account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses due to heat stress by 2030.

Rising heat and humidity could result in a loss of up to 4.5 percent of India’s GDP, equivalent to approximately USD 150-250 billion, by the end of the decade, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

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