Delhi heatwave: How are residents coping with extreme weather?

Arrangements have been made at hospitals to treat patients suffering from issues such as exhaustion and stroke.

Published : May 29, 2024 18:00 IST - 4 MINS READ

Temperatures in Delhi hit a record 52°C on May 29.

Temperatures in Delhi hit a record 52°C on May 29. | Photo Credit: Parveen Kumar/Picture Alliance

Scorching temperatures in Delhi have forced authorities to issue a red alert for the sweeping heatwave that has disrupted routine activities in the national capital.

Rohit Garg, a 24-year-old gig worker, was admitted to the capital’s Safdarjung hospital when his body temperature rose and he began shivering. Delivering food parcels on his two-wheeler in the blistering heat enveloping Delhi had taken its toll, and he fainted at his last stop. “His sugar level dropped, and he suffered from severe dehydration. We had to put him through rehydration therapy as he suffered a heat stroke,” Ashutosh Singh, a doctor, told DW.

Jagan Das, a construction worker, has just recovered from a local hospital stay of four days, where he was on intravenous fluid. “I was dehydrated and am fortunate to survive. Working shifts of 10 hours in high temperatures put me down,” Das told DW.

Sizzling Delhi

With Delhi continuing to reel under scorching heat, arrangements are in place at several hospitals to treat patients suffering from heat-related health problems such as exhaustion and stroke. Some have set up dedicated units to treat patients suffering from heat-related health problems.

The Delhi government has asked hospitals to initiate a heat-relief action plan and ensure preparedness to deal with heat-related incidents (HRIs). In the last fortnight, 10-15 per cent more heat-related patients have come to OPD and about 10 per cent to the emergency department.

Also Read | Extreme weather is battering the world. What’s the cause?

“Our hospital staff is being sensitized for quick pick up of diagnosis and we are ready with rehydration therapy, depending on the severity of heat stroke patients,” Sumit Ray, medical director of Holy Family Hospital, told DW.

With no respite from the heat expected anytime soon, the India Meteorological Department issued a “red alert” about severe conditions in the national capital. Najafgarh in south Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 47.8°C (118°F), the highest of the season so far.

The Delhi government directed the schools that have not closed for summer vacations to do so with immediate effect. Public parks and markets are reporting thin attendance, and zoo authorities have begun to introduce preventive measures such as hosing down animals and installing water coolers in enclosures.

Extreme heat affects poor

However, no help is forthcoming for Delhi’s outdoor workers and low-income households, even though rising temperatures can pose serious health risks. “We bear the brunt of the heat wave—dehydration and heatstroke—almost daily, and there is an absence of basic facilities from the scorching sun,” Meena Devi, a daily construction worker, told DW.

Many contractors fail to provide essential requirements to their laborers. Lack of access to adequate healthcare facilities and unsafe working conditions pose significant risks to workers’ well-being. “It is difficult to work, but if I don’t, I won’t get an income,” said Devi, with her head and face covered by a scarf. She added that the heat also takes a toll on her two young children, whom she brings to the site.

Last week, the municipal authorities stopped the water supply, and many people had to make a tortuous walk a kilometre away to fetch water from trolleys filled with buckets. The poor and the homeless, who work or sleep outdoors, have been the worst affected by this climate. Many resort to makeshift measures, such as using tarpaulin and seeking shade near trees and parks, to lessen the impact of extreme heat.

“The number of heat wave days has increased. It is not just day temperature that we have to battle, but night temperatures have also been high,” Hiralal Paswan, a rag picker, told DW.

Coping with extreme heat

With temperatures spiking to 50°C, even election candidates and party workers take a break from outdoor campaigning from noon to 3 pm amid the ongoing election campaign.

“When the sun is at its fiercest at this time, our door-to-door campaigning, where workers distribute pamphlets, paste stickers, and tell voters about party symbols, come to a brief halt,” Raghu Jain, a political party activist, told DW. “But it is only a temporary reprieve. There is heat stress on the body, and several workers have fallen ill due to sheer exhaustion,” added Jain.

Also Read | Climate finance programme funnelling billions of dollars back to rich countries

Measuring the impact of heat can be difficult, and estimates of the number of deaths attributed to scorching temperatures vary from a few hundred to a thousand a year. Dense concentrations of buildings and paved surfaces amplify the temperatures, especially in areas with little tree cover or green space, creating heat islands where poor and minority neighborhoods often bear the brunt.

Experts point out that if current warming trends continued, wet bulb temperatures, a measure of heat and humidity indicating the point when the body can no longer cool itself, would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would find it difficult to survive. “A large proportion of our population is highly vulnerable to heat waves due to the possession of fewer household amenities as well literacy rates literacy and access to water and sanitation,” Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, told DW.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment