Even though the month of March has just begun, parts of this country are already experiencing a taste of what promises to be a scorching summer.
On Wednesday, the Indian Meteorological Department warned the districts of Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Mumbai in Maharashtra that the heatwave-like conditions they are experiencing today are likely to persist.
Temperatures in these districts are expected to touch 38 degrees Celsius—six degrees above normal for this time of the year.
“The heatwave conditions are for isolated parts of the Konkan coast, including Mumbai, due to a lower-level anti-cyclonic circulation over Gujarat and parts of Maharashtra, which is bringing warm easterly to north-easterly winds over Mumbai and the surrounding areas,” said KS Hosalikar, the deputy director of IMD (West), to the Hindustan Times. “The easterly winds are also not allowing the sea breeze [cool westerly winds] to settle over the city fast enough.”
The weather body has requested citizens from these districts to hydrate themselves regularly and avoid stepping out at day. On a pan-India scale, this summer is likely to be warmer than usual. “Seasonal [March to May] average temperatures over many of the subdivisions from northwest and neighbouring central India are likely to be above normal by more than one degree Celsius.”
According to data presented by Ministry of Home Affairs, 2400 people had died as a result of heat waves in 2015. This figure (2400) was more than the number of deaths caused by any other natural disaster. “Above normal moderate and severe heat wave conditions are likely in the core heat wave zone during the season,” the weather agency added.
With the IMD already predicting a hotter summer in vast swathes of this country, it is imperative that we begin preparing ourselves and find ways to take care of our health.
Here are some basic measures we could take to mitigate any suffering the summer heat is likely to bring.
1) Hydrate yourself as much as possible
The is the first measure anyone should take during the summer. It’s probably the most critical. Keeping yourself hydrated at all times ensures that your body functions at full capacity. It’s common knowledge that rising temperatures, and in certain areas, humidity, results in excessive sweating which robs your body of energy and electrolytes. Ideally, one should consume ORS, homemade lassi, lemon water, buttermilk and fruit juices to aid the rehydrating process. However, not all liquids are recommended. Alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated drinks dehydrate the body.
2) Inculcate regular eating habits
A person’s appetite tends to take a beating during the summer because of the excessive heat. Having said that, one must inculcate proper eating habits to ensure that their body receives the necessary nutrition to battle the heat and keep your healthy. Ideally, one should avoid high-protein food like meat and eggs, among others, reduce the intake of salt, and entirely avoid stale food. A light diet is recommended with vegetables like pumpkin, cucumber, bottle gourd (lauki) etc.
3) Keep the lights off
With the onset of summer, the temptation is to turn up the air conditioners and coolers, resulting in a lot of electricity consumption. However, what one doesn’t need to do is switch on all the tube lights and bulbs at home, since keeping alight raises heat levels. Instead, keep most of your electric bulbs and lights in the room switched off. It can also reduce electricity consumption.
4) Stay Indoors
Make sure to check the weather forecast for the week. This is a necessary step since it allows a citizen to keep tabs on weather conditions, and plan his/her day accordingly. If you like to work out or goes on long walks, do so after sundown or early morning. Most state or district-level advisories recommend not stepping out between noon and 3 p.m.
5) Wardrobe decisions
No one ever has a say on what clothes another person should wear. Having said that, one could wear loose clothes to beat the summer, as it ensures smooth air circulation. Synthetic apparel isn’t recommended for the summer, and instead one could opt for cotton. “Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose, and porous cotton clothes. Use protective goggles, umbrella/hat (protection against harsh sun rays), shoes or chappals while going out in the sun,” says the National Disaster Management Authority on its website.
6) Avoid any unnecessary physical exertion
Maintaining high energy levels is necessary during the summers. Any strenuous activity outside, especially between noon and 3 p.m. is best avoided. Of course, while exercising, keep hydrated at all times. Just avoid the sun for the most part.
In 2016, the IMD began to issue weather advisories for heatwave conditions between April and June. Every fifth day the forecast is updated and early warnings sent. State governments have also taken the lead on mitigating the effects of the killer heat.
Both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, for example, initiated a mass awareness citizen-related campaigns via WhatsApp alerts or standard text messages to warn citizens of the incoming heatwave, warning them when not to step outdoors. They also set up makeshift medical facilities and public cooling stations with drinking water and other liquids. Workers enrolled under MNREGA were ordered to avoid the afternoon heat between noon and 3 pm. Similar steps were also taken by the Odisha government. Taking the lead on this issue, however, is the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, which established its first comprehensive Heat Action Plan in 2013.