Temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan have reached record highs, putting the lives of millions at risk.
The average maximum temperature in northwest and central India in April was the highest since records began 122 years ago, reaching 35.9 and 37.78C respectively, according to the Indian Meteorological Department. (IMD).
Last month, New Delhi has recorded seven consecutive days of over 40C, three degrees above the average temperature for April. In some states, the heat has closed schools, damaged crops and strained power supplies, with authorities warning residents to stay home and stay hydrated.
The heat wave was also felt in neighboring India’s Pakistan, where the cities of Jacobabad and Sibi in the southeastern province of Sindh recorded maximum temperatures of 47C on Friday, according to data from the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). According to the PMD, it was the highest temperature recorded in a city in the northern hemisphere that day.
It is the first time in decades that Pakistan has experienced what many call a “year without spring”.
Sherry Rehman, Climate Change Minister of Pakistan.
Temperatures in India are expected to improve slightly this week, with maximum temperatures in the northwest of the country falling by 3-4°C, according to the IMD. Temperatures in Pakistan are also expected to be close to average, around 40°C, by the end of this week.
But experts say the climate crisis will lead to more frequent and prolonged heat waves, affecting more than a billion people in the two countries.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), India is one of the countries most affected by the effects of the climate crisis.
This heat wave is unprecedented. We have seen a change in its intensity, arrival time and duration. This is what climate experts have predicted and it will have cascading health effects.
Dr Chandni Singh, lead author of the IPCC and senior researcher at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements.
India usually experiences heat waves during the summer months of May and June, but this year temperatures started to rise in March and April.
In the northern area of Punjab, conocido como “el granero de la India”, esto está provocando estrés térmico, nos sólo a millionnes de trabajadores agrícolas, sino a los campsos de trigo de los que dependen para alimentar a sus familias y vender en todo the country.
Gurvinder Singh, director of agriculture for Punjab, said an average rise of up to 7C in April reduced wheat yields.
The heat wave caused a loss of more than 500 kg per hectare of production.
School closures and power outages.
In parts of India, the demand for electricity has caused a shortage of coal, leaving millions of people without electricity for up to nine hours a day.
Last week, coal stocks at three of the five power stations that Delhi relies on hit critical levels, falling below 25%, according to Delhi’s energy ministry.
India has canceled more than 650 passenger trains through the end of May to clear tracks for more freight trains as the country scrambles to replenish stocks of coal at power stations.
Some Indian states, such as West Bengal and Odisha, have announced school closures to cope with rising temperatures.