Friday, May 29, 2015

Mounting Heat Deaths: India Among Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Over 1,800 people have so far died as a result of a severe heatwave sweeping across India, according to government officials and media reports. The highest death toll is in southern India with 1,700 heat-related deaths in the worst-hit states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where temperatures rose above 45C (113F).

Other parts of the country have been hit by high temperatures ranging between 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) and 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) with 43 heat deaths reported in the eastern state of Orissa, 12 in West Bengal and 7 in the Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat, according to state officials. Most of the deaths were caused by heat stroke and dehydration.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are also hot with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but India is suffering far worse, due in part to its many densely populated areas, according to a CNN report.

As expected, India has blamed Pakistan for heat-related deaths. “In Pakistan’s Sindh, temperatures have shot up to 49, even 50 degrees. Westerly winds are bringing with them this extreme, dry heat through a process called advection (transport),” said BP Yadav, director India Meteorological Department (IMD).

As longer, more severe heat waves become increasingly frequent globally, India appears to be the most affected. Thousands of people died across India during heat waves in 2002 and 2003.  In 2010 around 300 people were killed by intense temperatures, according to media reports of the period.

Bangladesh and India, along with several South East Asian and African nations, are the most vulnerable to climate change, while the United States, Canada and Western Europe are the least vulnerable, according to an assessment by Standard and Poor credit rating service.  The rich industrialized nations which have contribute the most to climate change are the least vulnerable to its disastrous effects now. The report says Pakistan and China are relatively less vulnerable than India and Bangladesh.

Source: Standard and Poor Global Portal

There are two basic reasons why poor countries are bearing the brunt of climate change: geography and poverty. Most of the red countries on the Standard and Poor map lie near the equator, where climate change-caused storms, flooding, and droughts will be more intense, according to media reports.  India is particularly vulnerable because of its rising population and depleting resources.

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

Standard and Poor has ranked 116 nations according to their vulnerability across three indicators: proportion of population living lower than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea-level, share of agriculture in economic output and a vulnerability index compiled by Notre Dame University. It ranks India at 101 and Pakistan at 94 while Bangladesh is ranked at 114 along with Vietnam at 115 and Cambodia at 116 as the most vulnerable among 116 countries. China is ranked at 82. Among African countries listed as most vulnerable are Senegal (113), Mozambique (112) and Nigeria (109).

Standard and Poor's analysts led by Moritz Karemer warned that global warming “will put downward pressure on sovereign ratings during the remainder of this century,” “The degree to which individual countries and societies are going to be affected by warming and changing weather patterns depends largely on actions undertaken by other, often far-away societies.”

Both India and Pakistan have seen recurring droughts and massive flooding in recent years which have resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries in addition to property losses. India has seen one farmer commit suicide every 30 minutes over the last two decades.

The fact is that the developing countries facing huge costs from climate change can do little to control it without significant help from the rich industrialized nations most responsible for it.  The World Bank is warning that this could lead to massive increases in disease, extreme storms, droughts, and flooding. Unless concerted action is taken soon, the World Bank President Jim Kim fears that the effects of climate change could roll back "decades of development gains and force tens of more millions of people to live in poverty."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

India's Rising Population and Depleting Resources

Recurring Droughts and Flooding in Pakistan

An Indian Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes 

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence

Climate Change in South Asia

US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia


Singh said...

Since when did S&P became a climate tracking organization?

These are the countries, according to Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, that are most vulnerable to climate changes

Riaz Haq said...

Singh: "Since when did S&P became a climate tracking organization?"

So why are thousands dying India of heat? Why are Indians more vulnerable than neighbors?

BTW, it is believed that the Indian death toll is vastly underestimated.

"as shocking as the death toll seems, it may be a huge underestimate, Azhar said. That's because people who die as a result of heat don't necessarily die of heatstroke or heat rash. Instead, they die of heart attacks, kidney failure, dehydration or other medical conditions that were exacerbated by the heat, Azhar said.

For instance, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010, authorities reported 50 deaths attributed to a weeklong heat wave. But in a 2010 study detailed in the journal PLOS ONE, Azhar and his colleagues found that 1,344 more people died during the hottest week than is typical for the region during cooler periods. (Two-thirds of these excess deaths were of women, though Azhar doesn't know why that is.)

What's more, India may be more prone to undercounting because authorities rely on death certificates to ascertain the cause of death. The homeless and those with no property to dispense are often not issued death certificates, Azhar said."

Naik said...

Well, I am from Odisha and in 1998 some 3000 persons dies of heat stroke. And after that(from next year) the toll decreased owing to the fact that even the poor and uneducated learnt how to cope with it. I mean wearing shoes instead of chappals, drinking lots of water with little salt, covering ones head while going out, staying indoors between 12 noon to 3 PM, constructing sheds on highway and lot of warning, awareness and to do and not to do in news papers etc. And many does not know that the places where most people die, humidity is also substantially high in those areas. That contributes a lot for the disaster(dehydration). And also sunstroke can happen inside the house also due to dehydration to elders, patients.

So may be next year people from Andhra or Telengana will learn from this year.

Anonymous said...

Haq, you certainly need to take things in perspective... India has a population of what 1.25 billion. 1800 deaths due to exposure is nothing. Compare this to US where you stay perhaps.

Number of people died due to hypothermia in 2011 is ...surprise... 1200 or so. for last 20 years this is averaging in thousands per year. Current population of US is 0.32 billion. Does it mean US is well, backward or whatever you were trying to imply?

Now climate or weather, well I believe Taleb in this. All this data analysis S&P is doing is nothing but mental masturbation. Things like climate is simply too complicated to be understood by likes of S&P. That too with data from what, a century perhaps? And that too they are neatly inferring at country level.

I believe any climate related change or catastrophe will be a "Black Swan" which none of the like of S&P will be able to predict or warn. This will be particularly troublesome for likes of US who have driven efficiency to maximum in every place at the cost of diversity, be it agriculture, livestock and food items. Imagine a disease which makes chicken hazardous, what will americans do then? India may be inefficient but its very diversity in terms of methods of agriculture, livestock etc is best hedge against these events, heck it will be benefitted by such events. I guess you may want to study a bit about anti-fragility.

Singh said...

About vast under-reporting of heat deaths in India, you should have read the CNN piece you've quoted. The answer is there.

Riaz Haq said...

Singh: "About vast under-reporting of heat deaths in India, you should have read the CNN piece you've quoted. The answer is there."

CNN basically says large numbers of Indians die prematurely but nobody knows for sure why.

But the fact is that India's premature death rate is among the highest in the world, far higher than in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

India is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change and global action is needed to address that challenge, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
"Future growth in both Indian cities as well as in the agricultural sector is at risk from climate change", said Felipe Calderon, former Mexican president and currently Chair of the Global Commission at the 8th India Climate Policy and Business Conclave in the national capital, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (Ficci) said in a statement on Thursday.

"India can create better growth, and at the same time ensure a safe climate for its citizens. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has set out a bold vision for India that will make it a leader in solar energy. We believe it is in India's economic self-interest to go even further," Calderon said at the conference co-organised by the environment ministries of India and Germany and the World Bank.
"The Global Commission highlights huge opportunities for India. It recommends practical steps to make renewable energy cheaper and available to more people, building smarter, better connected cities and harnessing the enormous potential of India's villages by investing in agricultural innovation," he added.
The commission said that India's economic prospects hinge on its ability to meet fast rising demand for energy and securing access to the approximately 300 million people who currently lack it.
"The research conducted for the Commission finds that while the cost of foreign coal is projected to increase, the cost of renewable energy is likely to substantially decrease," it added.
According to the commission, urban sprawl, congestion and severe air pollution are reducing India's productivity.
Half the world's most polluted cities are in India, including the top four in the world - Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur, it said.
"The Commission recommends loosening building restrictions in order to contain urban sprawl and building better infrastructure including improving public transport," the release added.

Anonymous said...

Statements given by "Stupid Economics Type" those who think they know it all, are well, stupid. Last I remember these guys failed to predict to economic meltdown of 2008. I highly doubt their caliber to predict anything related to something as complex as climate.

About pollution, cities like Patna Gwalior and Raipur have highest particulate matter in Air. This actually has nothing to do with man made pollution at least. This has more to do with the soil and geography of the place. Gwalior and Raipur don't even have that much industries for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Minorities in India feel the heat every day, even in the cooler and wet seasons. As long as they kowtow to the Hindus they are tolerated. If they dare to "talk back", even though they are INDIANS in their OWN country,the temperature rises unbearably for them. In some states it gets very hot if they try to eat beef. All these stories are planted to divert attention from issues like the 2002 riots in Gujarat and the unaccountability of those involved.

Riaz Haq said...

Holding Your Breath in #India #pollution

By Gardiner Harris

NEW DELHI — FOR weeks the breathing of my 8-year-old son, Bram, had become more labored, his medicinal inhaler increasingly vital. And then, one terrifying night nine months after we moved to this megacity, Bram’s inhaler stopped working and his gasping became panicked.

My wife called a friend, who recommended a private hospital miles away. I carried Bram to the car while my wife brought his older brother. India’s traffic is among the world’s most chaotic, and New Delhi’s streets are crammed with trucks at night, when road signs become largely ornamental. We undertook one of the most frightening journeys of our lives, with my wife in the back seat cradling Bram’s head.

When we arrived, doctors infused him with steroids (and refused to provide further treatment until a $1,000 charge on my credit card went through). A week later, Bram was able to return home.

When I became a South Asia correspondent for The New York Times three years ago, my wife and I were both excited and prepared for difficulties — insistent beggars, endemic dengue and summertime temperatures that reach 120 degrees. But we had little inkling just how dangerous this city would be for our boys.

We gradually learned that Delhi’s true menace came from its air, water, food and flies. These perils sicken, disable and kill millions in India annually, making for one of the worst public health disasters in the world. Delhi, we discovered, is quietly suffering from a dire pediatric respiratory crisis, with a recent study showing that nearly half of the city’s 4.4 million schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from the poisonous air.

For most Indians, these are inescapable horrors. But there are thousands of others who have chosen to live here, including some trying to save the world, others hoping to describe it and still others intent on getting their own small piece of it. It is an eclectic community of expatriates and millionaires, including car executives from Detroit, tech geeks from the Bay Area, cancer researchers from Maryland and diplomats from Dublin. Over the last year, often over chai and samosas at local dhabas or whiskey and chicken tikka at glittering embassy parties, we have obsessively discussed whether we are pursuing our careers at our children’s expense.

Foreigners have lived in Delhi for centuries, of course, but the air and the mounting research into its effects have become so frightening that some feel it is unethical for those who have a choice to willingly raise children here. Similar discussions are doubtless underway in Beijing and other Asian megacities, but it is in Delhi — among the most populous, polluted, unsanitary and bacterially unsafe cities on earth — where the new calculus seems most urgent. The city’s air is more than twice as polluted as Beijing’s, according to the World Health Organization. (India, in fact, has 13 of the world’s 25 most polluted cities, while Lanzhou is the only Chinese city among the worst 50; Beijing ranks 79th.)

So many of our friends have decided to leave that the American Embassy School — this city’s great expat institution — is facing a steep drop in admissions next fall. My pastor, who ministers to a largely expat parish here, told me he feared he would lose 60 percent of his congregants this summer.


There is a growing expatriate literature, mostly out of China, describing the horrors of air pollution, the dangers to children and the increasingly desperate measures taken for protection. These accounts mostly end with the writers deciding to remain despite the horrors.

Not this one. We are moving back to Washington this week.

The boys are excited. Aden, 12, wants a skateboard and bicycle, accouterments of freedom in a place he is allowed to wander by himself. His younger brother’s wish may be harder to realize.

“My asthma will go away,” Bram said recently. “I hope so, anyway.”

Riaz Haq said...

#PopeFrancis #encyclical on #climatechange cites ninth century mystical #Muslim poet Ali-al-Khawas. …

Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change cited many of the usual sources: the Bible, his predecessors in the Vatican and his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. It also cites ninth century mystical Muslim poet Ali-al-Khawas.

In the sixth chapter of the nearly 200-page papal letter, Francis writes that humanity can “discover God in all things.”

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face,” the pope writes.

In a footnote to that quote, he credits al-Khawas for the concept of nature’s “mystical meaning,” noting how the poet stressed “the need not to put too much distance between the creatures of the world and the interior experience of God.”

He then directly quotes the poet: “The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted.”

Alexander Knysh, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan, said that the idea Pope Francis is drawing on in this passage has been influential in literature, including Western figures such as English Romantic poet William Blake.

“According to (the idea), God actively and constantly reminds his servants about his immanent presence not just by means of various phenomena but also by various sounds and noises—rustling of leaves, thunder, rainfall,” Knysh says.

It’s unusual for a pope to cite a Sufi poet, but those who have known Francis since his days in the slums of Argentina say that shows his personal touch on the encyclical.

“He’s trying to foster ecumenical and interfaith dialogue about shared spirituality,” Father Augusto Zampini, an Argentinian priest and theological advisor to the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, tells TIME.

“He’s inviting all human beings to transcend, to go out of themselves and therefore to improve the relationship that we have with our people, with the Earth, with God.”

Gourish said...

Lo bhai...

Riaz Haq said...

2003 ‪#‎Heatwave‬ deaths:‪#‎France‬ 15,000, ‪#‎Italy‬ 4,200, ‪#‎Netherlands‬ 1,400, ‪#‎Portugal‬ 1,300 ‪#‎UK‬ 900. 2015 ‪#‎Pakistan‬ 800 …

France's summer heatwave killed a total of 14,800 people, according to official figures released on Thursday.
The figure covers 1-30 August, including a fortnight of record-breaking heat.

The number is almost 4,000 more than previous Health Ministry estimates.

The heat saw temperatures consistently above 40C in parts of Europe.

France was particularly badly hit by the weather, with the unusually high number of deaths putting a heavy strain on mortuaries.

The latest report - by the National Institute for Health and Medical Research - covers a longer period than previous reports, including the week when temperature began to fall.

Women worst hit

It says the death rate was on average 60% higher than usual for the time of year.

In some parts of France, notably central France and the Paris area, it was significantly more than 60%.

And the surge in the death rate was greater among women than among men - 70% higher compared with 40%.

Most of the deaths were among the elderly. The report said it was difficult to determine whether there was an increase in mortality among under-45s.

Correspondents say the report will intensify scrutiny of the government's handling of the heatwave, which was seen as tardy and inept.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has promised a thorough review of the health service following the crisis.

A report earlier in September concluded that poor communication and the absence of doctors who were on August leave were contributing factors to the deaths.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to set up #carbon markets to cut emissions, lure investment. #ClimateChange via @sharethis

Pakistan will set up a carbon market with technical assistance from China to cut greenhouse gas emissions and lure foreign investment.

The ‘Carbon Neutral Pakistan’ project will receive 7.752 million rupees (US$76,205) in state funding out of its total cost of 313.96 million rupees (US$3.85m) in next year’s Public Sector Development Programme.

Pakistan’s parliament gave final approval to the project in next year’s budget on June 23 along with 39.752 million rupees ($390,779) in the programme to combat climate change.

The developing country is vulnerable floods, droughts and extreme weather and needs up to US$15 billion a year to climate-proof its economy and cut emissions.

Pakistan pumped out nearly 150m tonnes of CO2 in 2008, which are rising at 6% a year, according to its climate change ministry.

Chinese advice

Arif Ahmed Khan, Secretary at the Ministry of Climate Change, told RTCC in an exclusive interview that local carbon markets would be set up with technical assistance from China for internal adjustment of carbon emissions and carbon credits.

“The carbon markets would help industrialists and other sectors to sell and buy carbon credits locally besides initiating a competition for greener technology,” he said.

The secretary said the project is being designed to meet future requirements that international community may impose on developing countries if an international deal on climate change is reached in COP-21, Paris summit in December of this year.

“Pakistan can also lure foreign investment in emission cuts in the coming years if we succeed in setting up the carbon markets to facilitate industrialists and people from other sectors,” he said.

The United Nations carbon market has spurred $356 billion of investment in emission cuts, encouraging climate-protection policies in at least 10 nations including China, India and Brazil, according to the Washington-based policy institute, Center for American Progress.

The secretary admitted creating a market was complicated, and said the ministry is working to simplify it for industrialists and investors with help of relevant experts and specialists. “We will also seek help from China to determine a viable carbon pricing formula,” he said.

- See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - Is #India facing its worst-ever #water crisis? #Ganges #Farakka #Bangladesh #climatechange …

On 11 March, panic struck engineers at a giant power station on the banks of the Ganges river in West Bengal state.
Readings showed that the water level in the canal connecting the river to the plant was going down rapidly. Water is used to produce steam to run the turbines and for cooling vital equipment of coal-fired power stations.
By next day, authorities were forced to suspend generation at the 2,300-megawatt plant in Farakka town causing shortages in India's power grid. Next, the vast township on the river, where more than 1,000 families of plant workers live, ran out of water. Thousands of bottles of packaged drinking water were distributed to residents, and fire engines rushed to the river to extract water for cooking and cleaning.
'Shortage of water'
The power station - one of the 41 run by the state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation, which generates a quarter of India's electricity - was shut for 10 days, unprecedented in its 30-year history.
"Never before have we shut down the plant because of a shortage of water," says Milan Kumar, a senior plant official.
"We are being told by the authorities that water levels in the river have receded, and that they can do very little."
Further downstream, say locals, ferries were suspended and sandbars emerged on the river. Some 13 barges carrying imported coal to the power station were stranded midstream because of insufficient water. Children were seen playing on a near-dry river bed.

Nobody is sure why the water level on the Ganges receded at Farakka, where India built a barrage in the 1970s to divert water away from Bangladesh. Much later, in the mid-1990s, the countries signed a 30-year agreement to share water. (The precipitous decline in water levels happened during a 10-day cycle when India is bound by the pact to divert most of the water to Bangladesh. The fall in level left India with much less water than usual.)
Monsoon rains have been scanty in India for the second year in succession. The melting of snow in the Himalayas - the mountain holds the world's largest body of ice outside the polar caps and contributes up to 15% of the river flow - has been delayed this year, says SK Haldar, general manager of the barrage. "There are fluctuations like this every year," he says.
'Filthy river'
But the evidence about the declining water levels and waning health of the 2,500km (1,553 miles)-long Ganges, which supports a quarter of India's 1.3 billion people, is mounting.
Part of a river's water level is determined by the groundwater reserves in the area drained by it and the duration and intensity of monsoon rains. Water tables have been declining in the Ganges basin due to the reckless extraction of groundwater. Much of the groundwater is, anyway, already contaminated with arsenic and fluoride. A controversial UN climate report said the Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of the current levels by 2035.
Emmanuel Theophilus and his son, Theo, kayaked on the Ganges during their 87-day, 2,500km journey of India's rivers last year. They asked fishermen and people living on the river what had changed most about it.

"All of them said there had been a reduction in water levels over the years. Also when we were sailing on the Ganges, we did not find a single turtle. The river was so dirty that it stank. There were effluents, sewage and dead bodies floating," says Mr Theophilus.
The waning health of the sacred river underscores the rising crisis of water in India. Two successive bad monsoons have already led to a drought-like situation, and river basins are facing water shortages.
Water conflicts

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - BBC Pop Up: A lack of #water and #wives in #India. #Drought #FemaleGenocide #Women

"Who would give their daughter to this village?" That's the question posed by one man in an Indian village devastated by an ongoing drought in the country.
The majority of young men in Gopipur, in the Chitrakoot district about 400 miles south of New Delhi, say that the shortage of water, and its crippling impact on the local economy, has made it harder for them to get married.
It's one of the unexpected social consequences of a drought that the Indian government now says is affecting at least 330 million Indians.
BBC Pop Up went to the community where nearly 5,000 people rely on a small naturally-fed well for drinking and bathing water.