NOIDA, India (Reuters) – For construction worker Yogendra Tundre, life on a construction site on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi is hard enough. This year, the record temperatures make it unbearable.
As India grapples with an unprecedented heat wave, the vast majority of the country’s working poor, who typically work outdoors, are vulnerable to scorching temperatures.
“It’s too hot and if we don’t work, what will we eat?” For a few days we work, then we sit idle for a few days due to fatigue and the heat,” Tundre said.
Temperatures in the New Delhi area have reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) this year, often sickening Tundre and his wife Lata, who works on the same construction site. This in turn means they are losing revenue.
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“Because of the heat, sometimes I don’t go to work. I take days off…many times I get sick from dehydration and then need bottles of glucose (intravenous fluids),” said Lata as she stood in front of their house, a temporary slum. with a tin roof.
Scientists have linked the early onset of intense summer to climate change, and say more than a billion people in India and neighboring Pakistan were in some way threatened by the heat extreme.
India experienced its hottest March in over 100 years and parts of the country experienced their highest temperatures on record in April.
Many places, including New Delhi, have seen the temperature gauge rise above 40 degrees Celsius. More than two dozen people have died of suspected heatstroke since late March, and demand for electricity has hit multi-year highs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on state governments to develop measures to mitigate the impact of extreme heat.
Tundre and Lata live with their two young children in a slum near the construction site in Noida, a satellite city of New Delhi. They left their home state of Chhattisgarh in central India to seek work and higher wages in the capital.
On the construction site, workers scale walls, lay concrete and carry heavy loads, using tattered scarves around their heads for protection from the sun.
But even when the couple finishes their day’s work, they have little respite as their home is hot, having soaked up the sun’s heat all day.
Avikal Somvanshi, an urban environment researcher at the Indian Center for Science and Environment, said federal government data showed heat stress was the most common cause of death, after lightning, due to forces of nature. over the past twenty years.
“Most of these deaths are among men between the ages of 30 and 45. They are working-class, blue-collar men who have no choice but to work in scorching heat,” Somvanshi said.
There are no laws in India that prohibit outdoor activities when temperatures exceed a certain level, unlike some countries in the Middle East, Somvanshi said.
(Reporting by Sunil Kataria in New Delhi; Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Neil Fullick.)
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