The weather office expects an enhanced probability of heatwaves across the country between March and May. Meanwhile, the farm ministry has set up a panel to monitor the impacts of high temperatures on wheat crops.

India’s key wheat-producing central and northwestern states are expected to experience intense heatwaves from now until May, the Indian Meteorological Department said on Tuesday. The warning comes as India recorded its hottest February since 1901.

A heatwave for the second consecutive year could compromise wheat, rapeseed, and chickpeas production irreversibly and hinder efforts to reduce food inflation in the country, experts warned. Energy supplies are also at stake as high temperatures are expected to increase power consumption.

Last year, India experienced a long-running wave of scorching and record-breaking heat and recorded its hottest and driest March in 120 years, with temperatures consistently 3-8C above average. For several consecutive weeks, residents were hit by temperatures surpassing 40C, while in some areas, surface land temperatures reached even 60C. 

In April 2022, total power demand rose 13.2% and up to 75% in Northern areas. This led to a coal shortage which triggered the country’s worst power crisis in more than six years. Millions were left without power for up to nine hours a day and critical services such as hospitals were constantly threatened by blackouts. To keep pace with it, the government relaxed its green rules on coal mines and expanded production by a further 10%

Already among the world’s most water-stressed countries, last year’s heatwave also led to water shortages and an economic slowdown due to a loss of productivity, as thousands of Indians were unable to work in the extreme heat. Farmers were among the worst-hit as they struggled to rescue wheat crops.

This year’s early onset of hot weather has already pushed electricity demand near last year’s levels, leading the farm ministry to set up a panel to monitor the impact on wheat crops.

A study suggested that human-induced climate change has made last year’s heatwave 30  to 100 times more likely to occur. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has also warned that intense heatwaves will become more frequent and more severe. 

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