South Asia sizzles: Record heatwave and extreme weather blamed on climate crisis

Screenshot from YouTube video by Abhi and Niyu via Zoom.Earth. Fair use.

Screenshot from YouTube video by Abhi and Niyu via Zoom.Earth. April 7, 2024. Fair use.

A scorching heatwave is ravaging South and Southeast Asia, impacting hundreds of millions with its intense heat. With April temperatures shattering previous records, the region is witnessing extreme weather patterns, wildfires, and tragic heat-related deaths. Schools have been forced to close, agricultural production and storage of perishable foods have been disrupted, and the risk of heatstroke and other health problems has risen significantly.

Climate scientist Roxy Koll tweeted:

The scientists attribute the heatwave to the diminishing influence of the 2023–2024 El Niño event, which started in July 2023.

Forest fires and heatstroke deaths in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has experienced increasingly extreme weather conditions in recent years, and April 2024 stands out as the hottest month since 1948, with average temperatures ranging from 40–42 degrees Celsius (104–107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in over 80 percent of the country.

Climate journalist Rafiqul Montu posted on X (formerly Twitter):

Typically in April, Bangladesh receives 130.2 millimetres of rain, however, this year, there was almost none. The government announced the closure of government schools affecting 33 million students nationwide, while private schools with better facilities transitioned to online education. In just one week of April, over 10 deaths across the country were attributed to heatstroke.

However, the most notable impact was the wildfires in different parts of the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, the world's largest mangrove forest. Sundarbans is a remote area, lacking adequate firefighting resources nearby. The Forest Department, along with fire service personnel, local villagers, and other volunteers, could only start firefighting efforts 17 hours after the first fire. As of the time of writing this report, a significant portion of the huge fire in the Amurbunia area of the Chandpai range is still burning, posing a threat to its rich biodiversity.

Asif Saleh, the Executive Director of the non-profit BRAC, posted on X:

As the heatwave continued, Saleh continued sharing about the impacts and devestation:

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) resorted to spraying 400,000 litres of water from two cannons on key roads in the capital, Dhaka to keep the temperatures down.

Dhaka North City Corporation uses a water cannon to cool down temperatures. Screenshot from YouTube video of Desh TV News. Fair use.

In Bangladesh, historically, heat waves have not been a concern, but extreme temperatures in recent years call for better preparedness and mitigation measures.

Above-average temperatures in India disrupt lives

Parts of India experienced a heatwave for up to 26 days in April, resulting in over nine deaths across the country. The eastern Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha recorded the hottest temperatures in the past decade, with some states experiencing temperatures seven or eight degrees above the normal average. The southwestern coastal state of Kerala also experienced a rare heatwave, resulting in two fatalities.

Extreme heat also troubled voters in certain Indian states during the ongoing general elections

Research scientist Vineet Kumar posted on X:

There have been reports of wildfires due to excessive heat in Uttarakhand, in northern India. Heatwaves are expected to persist in India throughout May 2024.

Wildfires and health hazards in Nepal

In late April, the Southern region of Nepal experienced temperatures higher than usual, reaching above 40 degrees Celsius in some areas. This has led to an extended period of intense heat and dry weather conditions, sparking wildfires across the country. While wildfires are typically observed during March and April, this year has seen a significant increase, with approximately 4,500 wildfires reported nationwide, nearly double the number compared to last year.

User firehorse249791 posted on X:

The heatwave and forest fires threaten the biodiversity of the country. Non-profit organization Kayapalat posted about this issue on X:

The above-average temperature has caused health concerns in different parts of Nepal.

Heat alerts in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been experiencing high temperatures across the country, especially in the north, since late April. On May 4, the Department of Meteorology issued an “extreme caution level” in some northern states.

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