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Modi Calls for Action as Deadly Heatwave Threatens Economy

More than two dozen people have died in India from exposure to extreme heat since late March, as temperatures surged past 40 degrees Celsius

Millions have been plunged into absolute poverty during Covid
A labourer drinks water on a hot day at a grain market in Chandigarh, in northern India. Oxfam wants taxes imposed on wealthy citizens around the world to help the poor cope with rising food prices. Photo: Reuters


India’s prime minister has urged states and territories to prepare heat action plans, as south Asia swelters under extreme temperatures that pose a threat to the country’s economic growth.

India recorded its warmest March in over a century, with the maximum temperature across the country reaching 33.1 degrees Celsius, nearly 1.86 degrees above normal, according to the India Meteorological Department.

“The ongoing heatwave and related power shortages in India pose a downside risk to growth,” Adam Howes, assistant economist at Capital Economics, said.

“The ongoing heatwave is also prompting a surge in electricity demand that power companies are struggling to meet.”

In a meeting with officials on Thursday, Indian leader Narendra Modi told authorities to take measures to avoid deaths due to heat and fire incidents, according to a statement issued by his office.

“He stressed that in view of the rising temperatures, regular hospital fire safety audits need to be done,” the statement said.

Exposure to Extreme Heat

More than two dozen people have died in India from exposure to extreme heat since late March, as temperatures in many parts of the north, west and the east surged past 40 degrees Celsius.

Apart from the human toll, analysts have warned of spreading economic risks from the heatwave.

“There are concerns about lower wheat production in India due to the heatwave in March,” said Vivek Maheshwari, equity analyst at Jefferies.

Scientists have linked the early onset of an intense summer to climate change, and say more than a billion people in India and neighbouring Pakistan were in some way vulnerable to the extreme heat.

With monsoon rains likely to arrive within weeks, Modi also told authorities to create “Flood Preparedness Plans” and make arrangements for monitoring the quality of drinking water.


Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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