Roasting in Delhi Summer by MOHAMMED ATAUR RAHMAN (JUNE 12, 2007)

For three consecutive days the National Capital Region (NCR) has been reeling under sweltering heat. As if it was not enough, the city of Delhi and its surrounding areas have been subjected to long and frequent power cuts.

The concomitant effect of power cuts was reduced water supply, which made coping with the heat even more difficult. No wonder 157 dead were brought to Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in Delhi from Sunday through Monday. This is more than double the figure of cremations on usual days, the doubling of mortality rate understandably attributed to the heat wave.

Ghaziabad, Noida and Faridabad in the NCR too reported similar trends. This figure, of course, does not take into account the Muslim or Christian victims of the heat wave. All this makes us wonder as to what happened to our vaunted disaster management system and mechanisms with high-sounding names like Crisis Management Group.

We are always caught unawares every time a disaster strikes. Cyclones blow away thousands of victims into the sea, people still starve to death in our tribal areas, people perish in floods and die in droughts. Now it is the turn of a heat wave to reap a rich harvest of human lives.

The disarray is so great that even the Delhi chief minister has failed to cope with the crisis. Reportedly irked by frequent power cuts to her own home and office and a drastically reduced water supply to her premises the CM has left for the cool climes of Shimla for a week. Unfortunately, the rest of us can’t afford to do that even in anger.

The extent of the problem can be gauged from the fact that the city’s premier daily is getting only 50 percent of the allotted power supply and editors are sitting in their glass and steel cubicles sweating profusely. The multi-storied building has been constructed in a way that the cubicles can be kept cool only with air-conditioning ducts. This is one example of how not to build for a city like Delhi where summer is so hot and power supply so uncertain.

That we are ill-prepared for facing a heat wave is starkly evident from the city’s hospitals which are not geared for a heat-wave emergency. If at all we need any proof of how unprepared the country is for coping with natural disasters we can get it from the experience of the last two days in the country’s capital.


Mohammed Ataur Rahman

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