Discuss the factors contributing to the rising frequency and intensity of heat waves in India. Identify the challenges they pose and propose strategies to mitigate their effects.


Indian Meteorological Department predicts above-average heat wave days for India, impacting multiple regions.


  • In Introduction define heat waves and highlight the increasing occurrences of heat waves in India, driven by climate change and environmental factors.
  • In Main body, address factors contributing to heatwaves like global warming, urban heat island effect etc. Then write challenges posed by heat waves like public health risks, energy demand surge, water scarcity etc. Further suggest some strategies like improvements in early warning systems, public health initiatives, green infrastructure, water management etc.
  • Conclude by stressing the need for a comprehensive, integrated approach in national disaster management plans to mitigate the adverse effects of heat waves.


A period of abnormally high temperatures is called a heat wave. The IMD declares a heat wave if the maximum temperature of a weather station reaches at least 40 degrees C in the plains and at least 30 degrees C in hilly regions, with a departure of around 4.5-6.4 degrees C from the normal maximum temperature. India is witnessing a significant rise in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, a phenomenon attributed to various global and local environmental changes.

Factors Contributing to the Rising Frequency and Intensity of Heat Waves

  • Global Warming: with increase in global average temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions.
    • India’s 2024 January was noted as the warmest in 175 years, highlighting the direct impact of global warming.
  • Urban Heat Island Effect: Urban areas become significantly warmer than their rural counterparts due to concrete and asphalt absorbing more heat.
    • Major Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai experiencing higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas.
  • Deforestation: The removal of trees reduces the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, leading to higher surface temperatures.
    • The rapid deforestation in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh contributing to local temperature increases.
  • El Niño Phenomenon: A climate pattern that causes the Pacific Ocean to warm up, affecting global weather patterns and causing higher temperatures in India.
    • The moderate El Niño conditions in 2024 increasing sea surface temperatures and affecting India’s climate.
  • Decreased Hydroelectric Power Output: leading to increased reliance on coal power and higher emissions.
  • Poor Urban Planning: Lack of adequate green spaces and water bodies in urban planning exacerbates
  • Agricultural Practices: can alter local climates, making areas more susceptible to heat waves.
    • The extensive use of irrigation in Punjab and Haryana has altered local humidity levels and temperature regimes.

Challenges Posed:

  • Public Health Risks: Heat waves lead to heat strokes, dehydration, and cardiovascular failures.
  • Energy Demand Surge: due to increased use of cooling devices raises power demand, stressing the energy grid.
  • Water Scarcity: Elevated temperatures increase water evaporation, exacerbating water scarcity.
    • Reduced water levels in reservoirs like the Bhakra Nangal Dam during heat waves.
  • Agricultural Impact: Heat stress on crops leads to reduced yields, threatening food security.
    • A 10-15% drop in wheat production in North India during the 2024 heat wave.
  • Economic Costs: Heat waves can disrupt economic activities, leading to loss of livelihoods, especially in informal sectors.
  • Ecological Damage: High temperatures can lead to biodiversity loss and altered ecosystem services.
    • Mass coral bleaching events in the Gulf of Mannar due to elevated sea temperatures.

Strategies to be adapted:

  • Early Warning Systems: Improve weather forecasting through IMD and disseminate heat wave alerts through various media.
  • Public Health Initiatives: Establish cooling centers and hydration stations in vulnerable areas, like setting up temporary shelters with cooling facilities in cities like Hyderabad and Chennai.
  • Green Infrastructure Development: Enhance urban greenery and develop heat-resistant infrastructure in urban areas through the development of city parks and vertical gardens.
  • Water Management Policies: Implement water conservation techniques and improve water storage infrastructure like rainwater harvesting initiatives in Rajasthan as a model for other states.
  • Sustainable Energy Solutions: Reduce dependency on fossil fuels by promoting renewable energy sources.
  • Healthcare System Strengthening: Enhance healthcare facilities to manage heat-related illnesses.

The escalating frequency and intensity of heat waves in India pose significant challenges across various sectors, necessitating a multi-faceted and integrated approach in national disaster management plans. By incorporating adaptive strategies can mitigate the adverse effects of heat waves and safeguard its population and economy against this growing threat.

‘+1’ value addition:

  • NDMA guidelines – avoiding the sun between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m., drinking plenty of water, wearing light, loose cotton clothing, and avoiding strenuous activities during high temperatures.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has attributed 24,223 deaths to heatwaves from 1992 to 2015.
  • About 172 heat wave days were recorded across India in 2022, a significant increase compared to the previous year
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