The relentless heat wave conditions that North India has been experiencing of late, with temperatures rising upwards of 50 degrees Celsius at some places, is part of a global phenomenon of rising temperatures and climate change, according to experts. March and April this year had also been the warmest in many decades, they say.
Dr D.S. Pai, a senior scientist at the Indian Meteorological Department, told The Sunday Guardian, “This heat wave condition prevailing in India is part of a phenomenon of rising global temperatures. The El-Nino factor has also impacted the temperatures here, because of which we had experienced a warm winter last year when temperatures were above normal throughout the winters.”
“As far as heat-wave conditions are concerned, it is mainly because of the dry weather conditions as we did not have a good monsoon last year and hot winds from the Thar desert also led to abnormal temperatures in Rajasthan and Gujarat,” he added. “These are isolated incidents and might not occur every year, but due to increasing global warming, average temperatures are likely to increase in the coming years.”
Although the onset of monsoon has been delayed by six days — it is now likely to hit the Kerala coast by 6 June — the Met Department has predicted a good monsoon this year.
According to Dr Malti Goel, former advisor to the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and founder of Climate Change Research Institute, global warming is one of the major climatic events of the 21st century which is leading to extreme weather conditions, frequent natural disasters, low crop productivity, among other irregularities.
Ajay Saxena, an ecologist and programme manager at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said: “India is vulnerable to climate change for various factors. The topography of India is such that it is sensitive to local and regional climate, unlike other countries. Through the recent past, we are seeing the first glimpses of the effects of global warming and climate change, which includes the unfortunate flashflood incident of Uttarakhand.”
According to data released by the Forest Survey India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in 2015, the total forest cover in the country is 701,673 sq km, which is 21.34% of the total geographical area, an increase by 0.11% since 2013. But, according to Ajay Saxena, the report on the increase in the forest cover in India is not purely based on dense or “very dense” forests. “Very dense forest population has not increased at all and they are trying to compensate natural forests through farmland forests. The health of the forests is also not good and thus they are not able to curtail the harmful effects of carbon dioxide,” Saxena said. “Deforestation also leads to degradation and erosion of soil, affecting crops. Faulty government policies are also affecting forests and forest areas are being diverted for industries, mining and other such activities,” he said.
Dr Malti Goel said, “It is mostly man-made factors that are accelerating environmental concerns and the government should move towards renewable sources of energy and conservation on energy.” Ajay Saxena said that the government should start investing in “green projects” and engage in “climate proofing” of government plans.