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Heatwave in India threatens people and vital wheat harvest

Farmers harvest wheat crop on April 14, 2022 in India. The country just experienced its hottest March since records began, and the heatwave is extending the harvest time, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Vipin Kumar | Hindustan Times | beautiful pictures

A record heatwave in India that exposed hundreds of millions of people to dangerous temperatures is damaging the country’s wheat harvest, which experts say could affect countries looking to How to import food mainly from Ukraine.

With several states in the northern and central regions of India forecast to peak at 120 degrees Fahrenheit this week, observers fear a range of long-term impacts, both domestically and internationally. international, from the heat wave.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told US President Joe Biden earlier this month that India can join to alleviate the shortfall caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two countries account for almost a third of total global wheat exports, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that the conflict could cause further damage. 8 million to 13 million people will be malnourished next year.

India’s wheat exports reach 8.7 million tons in the financial year ending Marchwith the government predicting record production – around 122 million tonnes – in 2022.

But the country just suffered March is the hottest month since records startedaccording to the India Meteorological Department, and the heat wave is dragging on the harvest time.

Heat wave is hitting the main in India wheat growing area especially tough, with this week’s temperatures set to hit 112 F in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; 120 F in Chandigarh, Punjab; and 109 F in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

Devendra Singh Chauhan, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, told NBC News that his wheat crop was 60% less than the normal harvest.

“In March, when the ideal temperature should gradually increase, we saw it suddenly spike from 32 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius [90 F to 104 F]”, he said in a text message. If such unreasonable weather continues year after year, farmers will suffer heavy losses. “

Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to the International Network for Climate Action, said the heat wave would have a “terrible” impact in the short and long term on people in India and beyond.

“[Wheat] Prices are going to be pushed up and if you look at what’s happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India for compensation, the impact will be clearly felt beyond India,” Singh said.

Harish Damodaran, a senior fellow at the Delhi-based Center for Policy Studies, said previous plantings tend to escape the worst impacts on their harvests. In other regions, however, hot temperatures rise during the critical “grain filling” phase of wheat, which is important for high yields.

“The temperature just went up,” he said. “It’s like an electric shock, and so we’re talking about a 15 to 20 percent drop in output everywhere.”

Damodaran added: “I don’t know if India will be able to meet the export demand as it will create domestic supply problems as wheat prices rise. “India cannot replace Russia and Ukraine in their wheat exports, mainly because of this heat shock.”

Monika Tothova, an economist with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, measured more. She said that while the heatwave will likely cause some “local crop failures … a significant impact on world markets is not obvious.”

She said India still had good wheat stocks and could “at least partially” cover some of the supply shortfalls caused by the situation in Ukraine.

Scientists also expressed concern about the human cost of the extreme heat wave in India.

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a report in February says global warming means that hundreds of millions of people have been or will soon be exposed to extreme heat, depending on carbon emissions.

By 2100, it says half to three quarters of humanity would be exposed “to periods of life-threatening climatic conditions due to the effects of extreme heat and humidity.”

Chandni Singh, an environmental social scientist at the Indian Institute of Human Settlement, said while the heatwave may not have caused the deadly tolls, the damage caused by the heatwave and the heatwaves future heat will be very significant.

“Those in informal settlements or those who do labor-intensive outdoor work are most affected, with few options or resources to cool their homes,” she said.

The UN forecasts that temperatures and humidity across the Indian subcontinent will increase in the short term due to climate change. This means that hundreds of millions of people could face so-called higher wet-bulb temperatures, where air cannot be cooled by evaporating water and sweat just cannot cool the human body.

A wet bulb temperature of 95 F is unlikely to change for more than six hours, even for healthy adults resting in the shade.

“I am most concerned about the effects this will have on informal livelihoods in cities, which often occur in cramped, poorly ventilated spaces, often from people’s homes,” Singh said. people.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and lead author of the IPCC, said while more research is needed to directly link the current heat wave to climate change, “The root cause of increased heat waves in the Indo-Pakistan region is global warming due to anthropogenic carbon emissions.”

He said some Indian cities have learned from previous deadly heat waves, such as limiting working hours and implementing early warning systems.

But these are short-term measures that do not address India’s increasingly frequent and extreme temperatures in the near future, Koll said.

“After seeing my son come home from school in the heat, we spoke to the school principal, who showed us the data and the heatwave forecast. They immediately reduced the hours,” he said.

“However, this is only for one school,” Koll said. “We need such policies to be implemented at the government and state levels.”

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