India’s June heatwave deaths are a harbinger of worse to come

On the edge of the Ganges river in Ballia, a district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, head priest Pappu Pandey expressed how he is experiencing this for the first time. A part of his work is to keep a count of bodies. As a deadly compliment of intense heat and irritating pre-monsoon humidity has been suffocating, the ground became choked with pyres. He said surprisingly the deaths have increased a lot because of the peak of the heatwave in june. “It was like a huge curse from nature,” he said, describing the deadly weather killing people.

June’s scorching weather, where the mercury soared as high as 46 deg C, is likely just a forecast of what is to come. Scientists guess climate change has made intense heat 30 times more likely in India, while the World Bank has highlighted India as likely to be one of the first places in the world where the weather is challenging survival. The health authorities have denied the idea of directly connecting the weather with people dying, rather its due to ages and other situations. One huge problem is that the number of people dying may have several reasons, said Dr Ronita Bardhan, an associate professor of sustainable built environment at the University of Cambridge.