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Rising heatwaves concerns in Odisha: cause, impact, and the way forward

In recent years, Odisha has been experiencing prolonged and intense heat waves, causing significant distress to its population.

By Florence Das
New Update
odisha heatwaves

Odisha, located on the eastern coast of India, is known for its tropical climate with hot summers and cool winters. However, in recent years, the state has been experiencing prolonged and intense heat waves, causing significant distress to its population. In 2023, Odisha witnessed one of its worst heatwaves, with temperatures soaring to 45°C, posing a severe threat to life and livelihood.

This article aims to explore the causes and impacts of heatwaves in Odisha, and the warnings issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Furthermore, the role of individuals and society in mitigating the effects of this climate crisis.

Causes of Heatwaves in Odisha

The primary cause of heat waves in Odisha is the increase in global temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial activities have led to a rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This has resulted in the trapping of heat, leading to a rise in global temperatures, which in turn causes heat waves. The urban heat island effect i.e. urban areas trap more heat than rural areas due to the presence of concrete buildings and pavements also exacerbates the impact of heat waves.

Impact of Heatwaves on Life and Livelihood

The impact of heat waves on life and livelihood in Odisha is severe. The prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, leading to dehydration, organ failure, and even death. The elderly, children, and people with pre-existing medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat waves. The temperature rise also affects livestock and crops, leading to reduced yields, and eventually food shortages. And, that can have long-term consequences on the economy.

IPCC Warnings and the Role of Life

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the rise in global temperature will lead to more frequent and intense heat waves in the future. According to the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves are projected to increase in Odisha and other parts of India in the coming years.

The report highlights that the coastal districts of Odisha, including Ganjam, Puri, and Balasore, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of heatwaves due to their high population density, low adaptive capacity, and exposure to extreme weather events.

The IPCC's AR6 report also warns that rising temperatures and heat waves can have significant socio-economic impacts. For example, reduced crop yields, increased energy demand, and decreased labor productivity. These would lead to adverse effects on the livelihoods of the people in Odisha and other vulnerable regions.

Individuals and society have a crucial role to play in addressing this crisis. Adopting sustainable practices such as reducing energy consumption, using renewable energy sources, and conserving natural resources can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Educating and raising awareness about the impact of heatwaves on life and livelihood can help communities prepare and adapt to the changing climate.

Guidelines Issued By Government

As the temperatures rise, the Odisha government has issued guidelines to tackle the heatwave situation in the state. The guidelines have been issued to all district collectors, municipal commissioners, and chief district medical and public health officers. They have been asked to take necessary steps to prevent heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.

With the safety and well-being of its citizens as the top priority, the government has emphasized the need for awareness campaigns to educate people about the importance of staying hydrated and taking necessary precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses. The state government has urged the media to play an active role in spreading awareness about the heatwave situation and the preventive measures that can be taken. In addition to awareness campaigns, the government has directed officials to take measures such as setting up water kiosks, providing cool shelters, and opening public buildings for people to rest during the day. They have also been instructed to ensure the availability of necessary medical facilities in case of emergencies.

The guidelines have also emphasized the need to keep a close watch on vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women. Special care and attention will be provided to these groups, and necessary steps will be taken to ensure their well-being. The guidelines recommend that people should avoid going out during the hottest part of the day and stay indoors in a cool and shaded area. It also suggests wearing loose-fitting and light-colored clothes, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding sugary and caffeinated beverages.

Conclusion

Heatwaves are a significant threat to life and livelihood in Odisha and other parts of the world. The rise in global temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions is the primary cause of heat waves. Urgent action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the changing climate, and mitigate the impacts of heat waves. Individuals and society have a crucial role to play in addressing this crisis. By adopting sustainable practices and raising awareness, we can mitigate the impact of heat waves and ensure a sustainable future for ourselves and the planet. The Odisha government's comprehensive guidelines demonstrate its commitment to the well-being of its citizens. The Odisha government's proactive approach serves as a model for other regions facing similar challenges. 

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