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Mainstream, VOL LX No 19, New Delhi, April 30, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 30, 2022

Friday 29 April 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 30, 2022

In the past week, an extreme heatwave has engulfed large parts of the India and Pakistan region with temperatures in the range of 46 degrees C and above. Heatwaves are of course common for us every year in the region, but this year we have seen high temperatures starting in the month of March itself – the highest recorded average in a hundred years. Such extreme conditions are no doubt driven by global climate change, but a conscious and visible policy of environmental protection is seriously absent from our domestic policies. Observers estimate that crisis provoked by extreme heat conditions cause huge losses somewhere in the range of 4% of GDP. India’s wheat crops in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh will likely go bad in scorching temperatures and lower the final yield by 20 to 30 percent. There had been expectation that India could partly supply wheat to markets in Europe and Africa facing shortfalls due to disruptionby Russia’s war on Ukraine, but that hope has taken a hit now. The current heat wave has provoked a huge demand for electricity and caused power outages and water shortages in several states of the union. And the icing on the cake is massive fires in the gigantic landfills in India’s capital in recent weeks. These fires are causing huge eruption of toxic smoke in large areas. The bad air quality in our urban areas has already been beating world records. The prestigious health journal The Lancet had published a major study on how pollution is causing close a million deaths every year in India. But that was forgotten as a footnote buy our experts. It has been widely established that exposure to extreme heat can have serious adverse effects on people with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular, respiratory diseases. These people account for a high proportion of the deaths caused by extreme heat. India’s economic development czars who are heavily promoting urbanisation have no credible environmentally sensitive plans and they dont seem to care. The heat retaining asphalt laden surfaces, roads, flyovers, concrete buildings rooftops are the hallmark our cities with less and less green space, trees and a scarcity of water. Forests and green cover are crucial for our environment, They modify temperatures via production of atmospheric moisture and rain. But every day we hear more and more reports of tens of thousands of trees being axed for building for roads and mining projects. Soaring temperatures are not likely to change the mindset of the guys running the gravy train to our environmental destruction. Our officials had not long ago manipulated data to show via an official report that india had increased its forest cover, only to be called out by environmentalists [1] Will India’s national political parties wake up and see the writing on the wall.

April 30, 2022 – HK

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