Masses at mercy of merciless heat

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While there was some respite from heat in Karachi on Tuesday with a slight drop in temperature which has dropped by almost seven Celsius, various parts of the rest of the country are still in grip of lethal heatwave that has jeopardized life comprehensively. While humans are coping with the situation by taking precautionary measures, cattle, livestock and crops are totally at the mercy of the merciless heat.

Two deaths have been reported in Karachi so far due to heat strokes.  In first incident, cricketer Umar Khan died of heatwave effects while playing a cricket match at Annu Bhai Park in the city, while a footballer from Lyari has also fallen prey to the effects of heat. The interior Sindh has also recorded several death and in one incident, three children succumbed to heatwave impacts in the Kaccho area of interior Sindh on Saturday last. The hospitals across the province and in rest of the country are also burdened with an increasing number of heatwave victims. As per hospital sources, majority of these consists of heatstroke with Acute Kidney Injury, and other heat-related ailments like the gastroenteritis and extreme dehydration due prolonged exposure to heat.  The most unfortunate thing is that the heatwave is going to prolong for another week across the country and it remains to be seen as to how the authorities cope with the calamity-like situation in some parts of the country. It ought to be mentioned here with concern that in recent days, the mercury has hit as high as 51 degree centigrade in some parts of the country, i.e.,  in Jacobabad and also remained on the extreme side in other parts of Sindh.

The KP capital city Peshawar is also braving heatwave while the arid deserts of Punjab and Sindh and the southern areas of Punjab are also reeling under the impact of severe heats. The irony is that while the authorities issue instructions to public on how to avoid heat effects, and has also formed heat managements plans, there is no mention of either cattle, livestock or crops which are also bearing the brunt of the adverse weather conditions that are upon us since April which has been recorded to be the hottest months in the country during the last  60 years. Not only the coming weeks are predicted to be bringing more heatwaves, the Met office forecasted a prolonged heatwave till the mid of June across the country.  Sindh will be the most affected as in other parts  dust storms are expected which will help bring down the temperature in those parts of the country like at some places in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmir, KP province and southern Punjab.

It be may be recalled here that severe heatwave originated in June 2015 when the mega city of Karachi was badly hit by its effects and while the heatwave straining the limits of the Sindh dwellers, had killed around 2000 people mostly in Karachi. This year again, when is experiencing the worst of heat situation and the irony is that this time it heralded in early March, when temperatures touched above 49.5C in Jacobabad in early May and now almost touching 52 as is evident from the 51.7 centigrade that occurred in Jacobabad on Saturday last.

And the now the situation has reached an alarming level with the heatwaves are not only frequent in nature but also of longer durations due to which it is  impacting the civic life in big way. Electricity load shedding has started, water has become scarce while crops are at mercy of this heat due to which the agricultural output is going to suffer badly and may have devastating effects on the economy as well. Indeed is not short of the situation which persisted during the corona pandemic. The marginalized sections of the society will not only die of heat impact but will be long affected by the situation even when the heatwaves subsided because when there will be little crop yield, the food shortage will further aggravate. Experts say that collective efforts are needed to not only engage with civic agencies, the civil society at large together with local and provincial stakeholders, to stand united and form a joint response to the ongoing situation which is huge crisis.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) should be tasked with emergent plans to initiate plants at district and Tehsil level. A huge food shortage scenario and water stress situation is in pipeline which will be out of control if timely efforts were not made to thwart the impending dangers.   Meanwhile, PPP leader Sherry Rehman, who is at the helm of affairs in Climate Change Ministry said that we should awaken to the severity of climate change effects which are taking place in the form of heatwave and other natural calamities and catastrophes.

She informed that the UN has already listed our country among the top ten nations who are at higher risk of climate change effects and now it is the responsibility of the government to work in accordance with the available reports. On the positive side is the development from the coalition government which has come up with a national task force to stir disaster management plans to cope with severe heatwave effects, she said. It remains to be seen how the Task Force comes to terms with the effects of the intense heatwaves and help the masses to some extent.