Bihar: Poor Working Class Face Brunt of Heatwave Conditions in June
Patna: Unbearable scorching sun, hot winds and heatwave conditions in Bihar in June adversely affected the everyday life of people, mainly the poor and working class. There is no sign of relief and respite from this extreme heat for the next four to five days ahead of the much awaited annual monsoon. This is revealed by the scientists of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) office in Patna.
More than others, thousands of poor, mostly daily wage construction workers, rickshaw pullers, hand carters (Thelawala), vendors, pavement shopkeepers and farm labourers are facing the brunt of rising temperatures, and they are struggling to beat the heat and survive while earning a daily livelihood.
Roads and streets in urban and rural areas wore a deserted look from 10 am till 4 pm in the afternoon due to the scorching sun and hot winds. Few people, mostly seen outside, cover their heads with thin white towels to protect them.
Because of heatwave conditions, the government has changed the working time of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers in the morning and evening. But construction workers, vendors and others have no option and have been working in extreme heat. Some of them, primarily weak and ailing, stopped working as they could not face the rising heat.
Nawab Sheikh, a petty construction contractor, told NewsClick that workers are working under the sun despite the intense heat. "I, too, work as a mason to complete the work because the speed of work got affected due to extreme heat."
Narendra Kumar, a vegetable vendor, said most residential areas wore a deserted look, and people hardly came out to purchase. “It is a tough time. Sales have come down because customers are only coming either in the morning or evening,” he said.
Similarly, Suresh Paswan, a hand carter, said the heat wave is forcing him to take the risk of working at noon and afternoon. “We have no option but to work and take regular intervals to rest and escape the scorching sun and drink lots of water,” he told NewsClick.
The state weather department issued heat wave yellow alerts on June 7 in seven districts of Bihar and severe heatwave conditions in two to three districts. At the same time, the department issued a similar alert in 17 districts on June 6. "There is no sign of respite from extreme heat conditions for the next four days," the official said.
According to local IMD official Ashish Kumar, more than 20 of 38 districts in Bihar recorded temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius on June 6. The maximum temperature of 43.3-degree Celsius was recorded in Khagaria, followed by 42 degrees Celsius in Patna, 41.9 in Nalanda, 41.8 in Nawada, 41.5 in Gaya and 41.7 in Bhojpur districts on Tuesday.
The IMD officials said the temperature has been hovering above 40-42 degrees Celsius since last week. At some places, the temperatures were recorded above 42 and 43 degrees Celcius in the first week of June, along with hot winds.
Early this week, heat wave conditions forced the Muzaffarpur district administration to change the school timing of Class 1 to 5. The administration directed the government-run and private schools that there would be no class after 10 am upto Class 5.
In Patna, doctors of four major government-run health centres (AIIMS Patna, Patna Medical College and Hospital, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital and Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences) said that at least 40 to 50 patients affected by heat stroke are visiting the Out Patient Department (OPD) per day since early this month. "Not only sunstroke, many children suffering from high fever, vomiting and loose motion also increased due to the hot climate," doctors said.
Given the heatwave, state disaster management department officer Hari Narayan Paswan said they had issued a repeated advisory to people to avoid going out and be hydrated by consuming sufficient water.
Amid the hot climate, a power crisis (hours-long power cut) has further added problems for people living in district headquarters towns and villages. Due to the ongoing hot summer, groundwater levels have dipped drastically, particularly in dozens of districts, resulting in a severe water crisis. Even ponds, wells, canals and river beds dried across the state.
Farmers cannot go for paddy sowing due to a lack of moisture and difficulty irrigating the land. The monsoon is still away; there is no pre-monsoon rain, and the rising temperature worries them. Most farmers fear it will affect cultivating during the Kharif season after Rohini Nakshatra on May 25.
“Farmers are waiting for pre-monsoon rains to prepare their land for paddy cultivation. This ongoing heat wave condition on June 7 is something new. The climate is changing and bound to hit farmers," Bhola Singh, a farmer, said. Bihar witnessed a spell of heatwaves in May and April also.
Scientists have repeatedly warned of more heat wave conditions and rising temperatures in Asia, particularly in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, due to climate change.
According to scientists at the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar and Pakistan were affected by extreme heat in April as temperature records broke across Asia.
They said human-induced climate change is the primary reason behind the growing number and ferocity of heatwaves across Asia. If these heatwaves continue, they will impact two billion people directly and indirectly and cause water scarcity, food insecurity, erratic rainfall, floods, landslides,
Scientists at ICIMOD have urged global governments and businesses to make faster reductions in emissions. They also urged development agencies to invest more in climate finance to accelerate regional adaptation.
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