Preparing for heatwaves

 
May 30, 2020

With temperatures soaring to over 50 degrees Celsius in both India and Pakistan, the entire region will be in the grip of a severe heatwave for some time to come. Though according to meteorological...

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With temperatures soaring to over 50 degrees Celsius in both India and Pakistan, the entire region will be in the grip of a severe heatwave for some time to come. Though according to meteorological department the heat is neither unexpected nor is it above the normal temperature recorded in the months of May in the past many years, some precautionary measures are in order. Especially, in the current Covid-19 pandemic when the health facilities in the country are already under severe strain, we simply cannot afford another health-related misery resulting from the heatwave. We remember that in 2015, during the heatwave in Pakistan over one thousand people died after getting heatstroke. After 2015, every year the government and other social welfare organisations have been taking extra care to deal with expected heatwaves.

This year, maybe because of the corona overload or simply due to lack of preparation there is no visible sign that the federal, local, and provincial governments are ready for the heatwave. we have not seen much movement from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to discuss a possible disaster in the making if the heatwave prolongs and affects thousands of people. Just like the coronavirus, one could avoid getting heatstroke if proper precautionary measure are taken. Not going out unless absolutely necessary and covering your head and face if you do, is the best protection. Drinking plenty of water is another sure prevention against heatwave, so just like we did after 2015, there is a need for water coolers on streets and nearly every nook and corner of cities and towns so that people do not have to go far looking for water. This was at the people’s level, but at the governmental level, we need a more serious and coordinate response.

First, the federal and provincial governments should devise strategies ideally led by the NDMA, and PDMAs, but in a more transparent manner than they did with Covid-19. All hotspots of cities and towns must be identified, especially where people throng, such as markets and shopping areas. Bus stops are another point where people tend to gather to look for public transport; and there is an urgent need to erect shelters on bus stops where pedestrians can take shelter from heat and sunlight. It is the responsibility of local governments that all bus stops must have water coolers with clean drinking water. This is something our local governments should have done much earlier, but it is an unfortunate fact that after over 70 years of independent existence, you will hardly find any bus stop anywhere in Pakistan where there are water coolers and in functioning order. Lastly, we must not forget about our animal friends; there was a time till around 50 years ago that in nearly all cities and towns there were cemented water containers for animals to drink from. Now you hardly see any such provision and you witness birds, cows, dogs, donkeys, horses, and other animals just panting in heat and not able to find a drop to drink. There is much to be done for the heatwave, and we must not take it lightly.



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