Last year alone, heat wave killed at least 2,500 people — a 50 per cent increase compared to 2014.
Deaths due to extreme summer temperatures have seen a sharp upturn in recent years. Last year alone, heat wave killed at least 2,500 people — a 50 per cent increase compared to 2014. This year seems no different, with the India Meteorological Department predicting an average increase of 1 degree Celsius during summer.
We are still 20-30 days away from the peak summer phase and already, over 160 have died with the worst-hit being Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha. There are ominous signs of a torrid summer ahead of us — some States have reported an increase in temperature of about 4-5 degrees Celsius for April.
The data points to an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves in recent years. They portray a grim picture — in the twelve year period between 2001 and 2012, nearly 11,000 died due to heat stroke. And going by the numbers of the last few years, that numbers already in danger of being overtaken — over 5,000 deaths since 2013.
Most vulnerable age groups
With each passing summer season, the toll has increased and it is the farmers and labourers who are often at the receiving end. Numbers reveal that two particular age groups — middle-aged men, and women above 60 years of age — are vulnerable to the heat during summers. Over 3,000 men aged between 45 and 59 years; and around 750 women above 60 years of age succumbed to the heat in the twelve-year period.
A look at the age group wise distribution of deaths due to heat:
Andhra Pradesh, Telangana (referred to as Andhra Pradesh prior to 2014), Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and West Bengal saw over 5,000 deaths in the twelve-year period of 2001-12, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the total number of deaths during the period.
And the scary part is the rising number of deaths in the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana region: in the last three years, the reported number of deaths has crossed 4,912 — over three times than the entire death toll during the 12 year period of 2001- 2012.
The analysis is based on data obtained from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which means the numbers are based on the number of cases registered, following a declaration by a doctor that the death was caused due to excess heat and the failure of body’s temperature-regulating mechanism. Therefore, the possibility of these numbers underestimating the magnitude of devastation caused by heat waves cannot be ruled out.
The dataset used for the analysis can be accessed