Heat Wave: States Brace For Impact

While some states have kicked in their heat action plans, experts feel this is not enough to tackle the current extreme weather.

Temperatures across the country have surpassed the 40-degrees Celsius threshold, and with it, the electricity demand soared to a new high of 216 Gigawatts (Gw).

With rampant heat waves across the country, the ground-level management of states is stretched with many not having a heat action plan or are under prepared.

Both central and state agencies are bracing to tackle the variety of impacts of the heat waves.

These range from meeting high electricity demand to streamlining agri produce supply chain.

There is also a need for building weather resilient infrastructure.

Charged up electricity demand

The peak power demand on Tuesday, April 19, touched a historic high.

On the electricity consumption front, India saw a peak energy demand of 4,836 million units on the same day, an increase of 8 per cent over last year.

In just the first fortnight of April, energy demand increased by 23 per cent, indicating a sharp rise in use of cooling equipment.

It is not just the large states such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, which are driving the demand.

Intense heat waves in the Eastern region have pushed states like West Bengal, Odisha and even Southern states towards record high power demand.

Officials in Grid India (erstwhile POSOCO), the grid operator of India, said April is a crucial month as currently there is no other energy source except thermal, which is mainly coal.

“The Centre was apprehensive of the April demand but it is being handled well. The grid handled the highest-ever electricity demand without any hiccups. There is enough power and coal in the system. Now, gas is running too. Northern region will have some cooler days so that should shave off some peak demand,” said an official.

In May and June, hydro and wind energy would also start supplying power. Grid India expects this to take some load off thermal and keep power supply in surplus.

Power demand is set to touch 230 Gw in the coming two months.

Food and civic troubles

While some states have kicked in their heat action plans, experts feel this is not enough to tackle the current extreme weather.

A recent study by the Centre for Policy Research found these action plans to be insufficient and non-transparent.

Heat action plans are standard operating procedures which states/cities/municipal bodies need to tackle heat-related impacts. Notably, Delhi does not have such an action plan.

The assessment report, which covered 37 heat action plans, said information-dissemination strategies are used to alert the public.

In the absence of risk assessments, it is unclear whether these efforts would reach those most likely to be impacted in a timely manner (particularly in large cities).

“None of the heat action plans reviewed systematically-explored policy integration across all listed interventions. Many actions in agriculture, water, housing, infrastructure, and urban design could usefully be linked to existing policies to unlock capacity and finances,” said the report.

Another emerging crisis due to extreme heat is the threat to agriculture and food processing sectors.

“There could be a shortage of raw materials and crops due to crop failures caused by the extreme temperatures. This could result in price increases and supply-chain disruptions. Also, the high temperatures can cause quality deterioration in products like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, reducing their shelf life,” said Saket Chirania, co-founder, Agrizy, a digital agri-supply-chain management company.

Investment in technologies such as cold storage, temperature-controlled transportation, and advanced forecasting models, Chirania added, can ensure steady supply of raw materials and finished products.

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