Northwest and east India are in for another spell of extreme heat, with temperatures predicted to rise by two to three degrees over the next five days, the India Meteorological Department said on Monday. India experienced multiple intense and prolonged heat waves in April and May which tested the limits of human endurance and the country’s disaster preparedness, as many states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha, reported heat wave-related deaths.

“Heat wave to severe heat wave conditions (are) likely over northwest and east India during the next five days,” the IMD said in a statement. The heat wave is likely to impact parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Gangetic West Bengal, the Met office said.

Experts say the extreme heat is a result of the naturally occurring El Nino phenomenon — unusual warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean — and the rapidly increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Studies show that rapid urbanization has worsened the warming in urban areas, with outdoor workers and low-income households bearing the maximum impact.

The heatwave in May saw several places across the country, including the hills of Assam, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh, recording all-time high temperatures. The mercury breached 50 degrees Celsius in Rajasthan and neared this mark in Delhi and Haryana. Similar heatwaves could occur once every 30 years and these have already become about 45 times more likely due to climate change, ‘World Weather Attribution‘, a group of leading climate scientists said last month.

There are concerns that heat waves in April and May have played a role in the lower-than-usual voter turnout during the seven-phase general elections in India that began on April 19 and ended on June 1, the second longest after the 1951-52 parliamentary elections. According to the Central Water Commission, water storage in 150 major reservoirs in India dropped to just 22 per cent of their live storage this week, exacerbating water shortages in many states and significantly affecting hydropower generation. The intense heat has already driven India’s power demand to a record 246 gigawatts, with air conditioners and coolers in homes and offices running at full capacity. India recorded nearly 25,000 suspected heat stroke cases and 56 deaths due to heat-related illnesses from March to May, PTI reported earlier, citing data from the health ministry. According to data compiled by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 46 of these deaths were recorded in May alone (till May 30). Between May 1 and 30, 19,189 suspected heat stroke cases were reported in the country. The data does not include deaths from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi, and could just be the tip of the iceberg, officials said on condition of anonymity. Severe heat waves have impacted a large number of people in parts of India for three consecutive years, affecting health, water availability, agriculture, power generation and other sectors of the economy.

According to a World Bank report, India could account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress-associated productivity decline by 2030. Studies also show India faces food losses worth USD 13 billion a year, with only four per cent of fresh produce covered by cold chain facilities.

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