Too hot to handleAs heat waves leave everyone vulnerable, one solution could be rescheduling work hours.
The sheer number of TikTokers making omelettes on solar-heated pans tells us much about the heat wave that has engulfed Tarai districts in the past few days. Even the celebrity chef Santosh Shah could not resist the temptation of appearing in one such video with the unrelenting heat becoming the talk of the lowlands. As temperature crosses 40 degrees in several districts in central and eastern Tarai, daily life in the region has been disturbed. Several local levels there have rightly called for a shutdown of schools until the heat subsides. The schools that are still running should be immediately shut too until the wave passes. Continuing to run schools in this heat would be an injustice to the young minds that are there to learn rather than be victims of an unforgiving climatic condition and an apathetic administration.
The Meteorological Forecasting Division of the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology has warned the situation will stay dire for a few more days. What’s more, meteorologists have warned of below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures across the country this monsoon. This means that the state should work more effectively to warn people of the danger of stepping out and working in the scorching heat. But simply sending warnings is not enough. As vital is uninterrupted power supply in the affected region so that people can at least use their cooling fans or coolers. Local governments can provide such equipment at subsidised rates to citizens who cannot afford them. Extreme heat waves also lead to loss of lives, as has been the case almost every year, and the best way to prevent such deaths is to equip citizens with the instruments to tackle those problems.
The summer also often brings along health problems in the region, as heat stroke causes nausea, headache, dizziness and fainting. Hospitals should be equipped to deal with the onslaught of heat-related illnesses. As of now, schools are the only major institutions that have been closed temporarily. However, as heat waves leave everyone vulnerable, one solution could be rescheduling work hours, especially in labour-intensive sectors. A case in point is the advisory issued earlier this year by India’s central government to reschedule work hours for labourers. In the United Arab Emirates, the government has announced a midday work ban from June 15 to September 15 to ensure worker safety, a campaign the Gulf country has been enforcing for the past 18 years.
If the heat situation is bad today, even worse is the fact that they are here to stay. As the climate emergency deepens, hot spells, like droughts, floods and landslides, are going to be more frequent in the coming days, years and decades. The climate situation is so dire that we are now already talking of adaptation techniques, as mitigation and resilience measures are not enough. In neighbouring India, heat waves cause hundreds of deaths every year as their frequency continues to rise. Last year, the South Asian subcontinent recorded the hottest March since 1901. The temperature in Uttar Pradesh went as high as 49.2 degrees Celsius, while it reached 51 degrees Celsius in Jacobabad of Pakistan in mid-May, as rains were a rarity. As we stare into a bleak future with extended seasons of drought, we need to immediately come up with collective and localised adaptation measures.