Use of satellite data to alert about heatwave could have saved lives in India

The data collected from satellites like Resourcesat-2A is processed, and information is put on Bhuvan portal. There is no lack of information, but it is the response mechanism of the states that is weak. 

Use of satellite data to alert about heatwave could have saved lives in India
use-of-satellite-data-about-heatwave-could-have-saved-lives-in-india

Use of satellite data to alert about heatwave could have saved lives 

At least 83 people have died in the last four days in three districts of Bihar as a blistering heatwave swept several places in the state. An official of the Disaster Management Department Control Room in Patna said 35 people died in Gaya, 34 in Aurangabad and 14 in Nawada due to the heatwave in these three districts since Saturday.

Heat waves are defined as "a marked event of unusual hot weather over a region persisting at least two consecutive days during the hot period of the year based on local climatological conditions, with thermal conditions recorded above-given thresholds" by TT-DEWCE task team of World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 

The state government on Monday ordered the suspension of academic activities in all schools, colleges and educational institutes across the state till June 22 apart from ordering the closure of markets between 11 am to 5 pm in three south Bihar districts of Gaya, Aurangabad and Nawada.

Could this tragedy have been averted? Why are they being repeated nearly every year at some of the other corners of India?  

In 2015, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, local media reported, in all, more than 300 people died due to the heat wave. The temperature recorded was in the range of 42°C to 50°C. People were urged not to venture out of their homes during the day. But that was too little too late. 

Why is forecasting not taken seriously?

For a common man (especially labour class), going out for earning is more important, they can't sit at home and wait for the weather to be favourable. In the case of children, the government close the schools when the temperature rises, but there are only warnings available for others. In Bihar, section 144 was imposed, but only after losing many lives. 

 

We have warnings, forecasting and updates regularly, but people only discuss and comment about the climate. The government should now start conducting awareness campaigns regarding this.

Where do we fail

The data collected from satellites like Resourcesat-2A is processed, and information is put on Bhuvan portal. There is no lack of information, but it is the response mechanism of the states that is weak. 

"India is strong technically, but we need to strengthen our response mechanism. In some areas where freak weather conditions do not appear frequently, the state's response mechanism is weak." Says former NRSC director YVN Krishnamurthy.  

Though Bhuvan continuously conducts seminars to promote their products, especially the Bhuvan app for Android, but implementation in a proper way is still yet to be achieved. 

Role of ISRO's Bhuvan

Indian Space Research Organization provides satellite data to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and processes weather data for public consumption. ISRO's centres - Space Application Centre (SAC) and National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), are engaged in satellite data collection and processing related to weather, respectively. 
 

But gradually things are improving. Learning from its mistakes states like Telangana recently took an initiative to update its population about hot weather conditions to reduce casualties due to heat wave condition. Working on the initiative, ISRO allowed state cable operators directly connected to Gsat transponders and made doctors speak on TV channels to update the masses about heatwave conditions. Because of the smooth information flow and timely advisory, casualties due to heatwave has reduced drastically in the last three years. 

This season, 42 to 45-degree temperature is reported in Telangana, but there are no reports of death by a heatwave this year like in 2015. 

Disaster management bodies like NDMA also gear up to deal with any natural calamity. Agencies can also take help from sites like IMD-heatwave, Mosdac and Bhuvan. 

Future Ready

Scientists are putting their efforts as usual, but the implementation from government and agencies needs attention. Campaigns and programmes like the one in Telangana are essential, especially for those who work in the field, factories and various open sites where they don't even have fans. Primitive measures like wetting soil by spraying water, keeping the body hydrated, water and liquid distribution by social workers should not be forgotten here.