(Bloomberg) -- India may get a reprieve this week from a sweltering heat wave that has been hitting several parts of the country for the past few days and putting lives, crops, and power supply at risk.
Temperatures in north India, one of the regions severely affected by the extreme weather, fell as much as 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, said R.K. Jenamani, a senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department. Heat waves could ease further, before the mercury starts rising again next week, he said.
The northern region was the warmest in 122 years in both March and April this year, Jenamani said at a media briefing on Monday. The extreme weather has exacerbated the country’s power crisis as demand for air conditioners soars at a time when power plants are facing acute coal shortages. It has also impacted farm output as some crops have shriveled.
The withering heat, which sent temperatures to as high as 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) at Banda in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, has raised the risk of loss of lives, a delay in wheat harvesting, some damage to fruit and vegetable crops, and a slowdown in industrial activities. Some states have been cutting off power supplies for as long as eight hours in a day to manage demand.
India may face more frequent and intense heat waves, extreme rains and erratic monsoons in the coming decades as the planet warms, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. McKinsey estimates work hours lost to heat wave could cause losses of as much as $250 billion, or 4.5% of the gross domestic product, by the end of the decade.
An early onset of the monsoon, as predicted by the weather office, could bring further relief. Some places in India, the world’s second-most populous nation, are already receiving pre-monsoon showers.
The monsoon, which waters more than half of the country’s fields, is likely to arrive in the southern state of Kerala on May 27, compared with its normal start date of June 1, according to the weather office. The nation is forecast to receive normal showers for a fourth year. Good and timely rainfall is vital for India’s agricultural sector, the main source of livelihood for about 60% of its population and which accounts for 18% of the economy.
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