Scorching heat in India and Pakistan has left people “out of breath” and forced India to reverse a policy of cutting coal imports to avoid further blackouts.

As temperatures soared in India, electricity demand hit a record high in April, with an increase in air conditioning use triggering the worst electricity crisis in more than six years.

Electricity demands have forced India to reverse a policy of reducing coal imports. Burning coal generates about 60-70% of its electricity.

The world’s second largest coal consumer expected to phase out the dirtiest fossil fuel after pledging at the COP26 climate conference to achieve net zero emissions by 2070.

But the federal government has asked state utilities and the private sector to ensure the delivery of 19 million tonnes of coal from overseas by the end of June, Reuters reported, to avoid emergency even more blackouts.

‘Breathless

Extreme heat swept through large areas of both countries last week and follows the hottest March since the India The Meteorological Department (IMD) began keeping records 122 years ago.

In April, northwest and central India recorded average maximum temperatures of 35.9°C (96.6°F) and 37.78°C (100°F), the chief executive said. from the Indian meteorological department, and the mercury soared to 40°C (104°F) in the capital New Delhi for several days.

Pakistan has issued a heat warning after the hottest March in 61 years.

High temperatures are expected to continue into May.

For the first time in decades, the country has gone from winter to summer without spring, from pakistan Federal Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said this weekend.

“South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan, is facing what has been a record-breaking heat wave. It started in early April and continues to leave people gasping no matter what shade they find,” she said in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also warned of the impact of high temperatures and the growing risk of fires.

Picture:
A man cools down in Peshawar, Pakistan

Contributions to climate change

Scientists have warned that more than a billion people are at risk of heat-related impacts in the region and have linked the early onset of intense summer to climate change.

In February, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of India’s vulnerability to extreme heat.

At 1.5°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures, West Bengal’s capital, Kolkata, could once a year see conditions match those of the 2015 heatwave, when temperatures reached 44°C (111 .2°F) and thousands of people died across the country, he said.

With summer temperatures in April and May, refreshing monsoon rains are expected to arrive in June.

A man breaks a block of ice to distribute to residents in part of Ahmedabad, India
Picture:
A man breaks a block of ice to distribute to residents in part of Ahmedabad, India

Real danger of high temperatures and high humidity

While the heat endangers lives and livelihoods in India, an additional danger is posed when high temperatures mix with high humidity, making it difficult for people to cool off through sweating.

These conditions are measured by “wet bulb temperatures” which record the reading of a thermometer wrapped in a damp cloth.

High wet-bulb temperatures are of particular concern in India, where most of the country’s 1.4 billion people live in rural areas without access to air conditioners or cooling stations.

Flash floods due to melting glaciers

Pakistan’s federal climate change minister also said the government has asked provincial disaster management authorities to urgently prepare for the risk of flash floods in the mountainous northern provinces due to rapidly melting glaciers.

Glaciers in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges have melted rapidly, creating thousands of glacial lakes in northern Pakistan, about 30 of which are at risk of dangerous flash floods, the climate change ministry said.