Weather bureau warns of another election heatwave

Days of drought: A farmer looking down at a dry well outside Beed, India. — AP

The republic’s weather bureau has warned the country of facing its second heatwave in three weeks, including in areas where millions of people are set to vote in the six-week election.

Analysts have blamed a dip in turnout compared to the last national poll in 2019 on widespread expectations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will easily win a third term, as well as hotter-than-average temperatures heading into the summer.

The latest round of voting in the seven-phase election will take place tomorrow, including in parts of India expected to see temperatures 2-3°C above normal.

Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Jharkhand states, all of which will hold votes tomorrow, could expect to see “moderate” heatwave conditions including temperatures around 40°C, a forecast said late Thursday.

The Indian Meteorological Department warned of “moderate health concern” for infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, and advised residents of those states to avoid the heat.

The capital New Delhi was also expected to see maximum temperatures of 45°C at the weekend, the forecast said.

Hundreds of millions of people across South and South-East Asia endured a prolonged heatwave last month that prompted school closures in the Philippines and also Bangladesh.

India’s election commission said last month it had formed a task force to review the impact of heatwaves and humidity before each round of voting.

In Mathura, near New Delhi, temperatures crossed 41°C on polling day in late April, with election commission figures showing a turnout drop of nearly nine points from five years earlier.

Modi urged voters this month to drink “as much water as possible” on polling day. — AFP

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