Killer heat

Published May 26, 2023

AS temperatures soar faster and furiously, meteorologists conclude that extended hot spells will hit every year. Therefore, the government’s cavalier approach towards heat tragedies is deplorable. On Wednesday, a first-year student in Khairpur died of the heat after he fainted during a test. Several others also collapsed at exam centres. Last month, heatstroke took the life of another man as he waited at a flour distribution point in Hyderabad.

According to a study quoted in The Economist, “between 2000 and 2019, South Asia saw over 110,000 heat-related excess deaths a year”. An IPCC special report on climate extremes inferred “temperature extremes are shifting globally. Heatwaves are projected to become more frequent and severe in India and Pakistan”. For these reasons, albeit lamentably late, authorities must realise that rescue plans should be put into action on a war footing: asphalt expanses peeled off for green cover and vegetation, fines imposed for every tree felled, vast parks converted into forests, greenhouses and fountains constructed to improve air quality, and factory and vehicle emissions scaled down to permissible limits. In a nation roiled by climate calamities, each tree and green belt has to be shielded as they are forces of alleviation which protect and regulate ecosystems and employment. Green cover also services sustainable development. As a breathless nation waits for these goals to take shape, the government, charitable groups and individuals should make generous contributions of food, shade, water and rest facilities for the outdoor workforce — labourers, street vendors and policemen — as the heat can exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory ailments. Undeniably, progress cannot be made at the cost of shelter and nature; it will be inutile. So far, global ways to counter the climate toll seem to be at odds with the ones pursued by our lawmakers; they prefer high-rises and malls to foliage and clean air. Their only choice is to pause and save lives.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2023

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