Urgently required: an action plan to cope with the worst of summerLocal and provincial governments need to come up with an action plan immediately to cope with the worst of summer.
As monsoon is delayed, the temperature is soaring across the country. Cities in the Tarai are already reeling under record high temperatures with hot air blowing in from the Indo-Gangetic plains of north India and Pakistan—a condition similar to a heat wave. Schools have been shut for a few days and people have already started seeking treatment for seasonal flu, diarrhoea, typhoid and other summer-time ailments in various hospitals. As global warming and rising temperatures are hitting regions, it has become imperative to prepare and develop capacity in handling periods of extreme heat as well as making communities aware of and resilient to the impacts of the changing climate.
The Tarai region is the hottest part of the country where the maximum temperature reaches more than 45 degrees Celsius during summer. When there are long periods of drought, heat waves become especially common—crippling lives. This year too, the temperatures in some places have reached the 45 degrees mark compelling the provincial governments to close schools and colleges for a few days.
The four-month monsoon generally starts on June 10. But weather forecasters from across South Asia and experts from the World Meteorological Organisation have predicted a sluggish monsoon this year. The global mean warming temperature has now reached 1-degree celcius above the preindustrial level—a change caused largely by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other anthropogenic emissions in the atmosphere. In fact, the warmest year on record was 2016. Therefore, it is inevitable that the effects of climate change will be felt every year; the only way to deal with it is by preparing for it.
The local and provincial governments need to come up with an action plan immediately to cope with the worst of summer. For example, the government bodies could devise an action plan aimed at providing a framework for planning, implementing, coordinating and evaluating heat responses in towns that minimise the negative impact of the sweltering heat. The plan could alert those at risk of heat-related problems in places where extreme heat conditions are expected. Moreover, governments can build resilience by investing in water and sanitation, and public health services making sure the architectural and urban designs minimise heat stress inside new factory and office buildings as well as in family housings.
Besides, adopting simple measures such as avoiding exposure during the hottest part of the day around noon, staying adequately hydrated, wearing suitable clothing inclusive of headgear, and creating shade in public places will prove to be the hallmarks of a prepared community.
Relegating the public health risk of heatwaves to the backburner can no longer be accepted. Granted, the situation in the Tarai is not as adverse as that in India where just a few days ago a heatwave claimed 70 lives. But that does not mean we become complacent.