The Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) forecasts that the country’s current mild to moderate heat wave will persist for the next week, continuing to affect people during Ramadan.
Extreme weather is now an indisputable fact of existence due to the Climate Emergency. Heatwaves, particularly in tropical countries, have become brutal, and Bangladesh is no exception; in fact, high humidity causes cities like Dhaka to become open boilers with extreme temperatures.
What is heatwave?
A heatwave occurs when the daily maximum temperature in a large location exceeds 36 degrees Celsius for an extended period of time. In fact, heatwaves are one of the most hazardous manifestations of changing climatic patterns.
It hurts people’s health by causing heat stress, dehydration, food poisoning, diarrhea, and heat stroke. It is especially dangerous in Bangladesh due to the high humidity of the air, as high humidity levels impede the body’s natural cooling system.
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Meteorologists classify temperatures between 36 and 38 degrees Celsius as a modest heatwave, and temperatures between 38 and 40 degrees Celsius as a moderate heatwave. Temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius are classified as extreme heat waves.
Heatwave in Bangladesh
According to the Bengali calendar, summer is still two days away, but a mild-to-moderate heatwave is sweeping over Dhaka and the majority of the country. In the second week of April, Dhaka has been experiencing high temperatures and high humidity of 84%. Although heatwaves have always existed, the current problem is that, due to climate change, they are becoming more severe and prevalent.
On last Tuesday, Chuadanga recorded a maximum temperature of 39.2 degrees Celsius, while Tentulia recorded a minimum temperature of 16.5 degrees Celsius. As a result, the country’s population continues to endure sweltering heat. So far in April, the highest temperature recorded in Dhaka is 38 degrees Celsius.
The bulletin of DMD states, “A mild to moderate heat wave is sweeping over Dhaka, Khulna and Barishal divisions and the districts of Rajshahi, Pabna, Bogura, Moulvibazar, Chattogram, Rangamati, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban and it may continue”.
If one spends eight to ten minutes in the intense sun during the day, the body begins to burn. However, the lips are as dry as winter. Normally, staying in this temperature for an extended period of time would cause one to sweat, but this is not the case. The lack of humidity in the air, according to health professionals and meteorologists, is the primary cause of this April’s unusually high temperatures.
Why heat temperature is varying in Dhaka?
Different regions of Dhaka experience varying degrees of heat. Extreme heat has the greatest impact on those who are already poor; the poor encounter a variety of health risks as a result of high temperatures. Data indicates that some of Dhaka’s most impoverished areas are the most vulnerable to heatwaves; temperatures here are frequently higher than in the adjacent areas, and informal settlements and corrugated iron-sheet roofing are prevalent.
The absence of vegetation and the use of corrugated iron sheets make the most impoverished areas the warmest. Throughout the day, corrugated iron absorbs heat, and at night it does not discharge enough heat. As a result of the high-rise buildings that surround these areas and impede the circulation of wind, the hot air becomes trapped and the area becomes unbearably hot.
How heatwave is affecting our economy by diminishing productivity?
According to a study published by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, Dhaka loses US$ 6 billion annually in labor productivity due to heat stress and extreme temperatures. This represents more than 8% of the city’s annual labor output, and if no action is taken to mitigate global warming, this number could reach 10% by 2050.
Assuming a 12-hour workday, a worker loses approximately 10 minutes of working time due to extreme heat; this means that Bangladesh loses 254 hours of labor per person per year due to heat stress, or 7 billion hours of labor per year due to excessive heat.
Heatwaves frequently have complex effects on human economies as a result of decreased worker productivity, especially among informal sector and/or outdoor workers. The majority of employees (such as agricultural and informal workers) are exposed to extremely high temperatures while working outdoors. They become dehydrated rapidly, and symptoms of heat stress such as heat stroke, fatigue, and cramps exacerbate their conditions, limiting their working hours.
In industries like brick and garment manufacturing, where employees are exposed to higher temperatures due to their proximity to machinery and ovens, the loss of labor hours is especially significant. The loss of livestock or harvests as a result of extreme heat exacerbates the plight of people, particularly their ability to provide for basic needs.
If the temperature exceeds 35 degrees Celsius, it is often impossible for a person to remain seated for more than six hours. Such conditions substantially hamper and reduce productive work hours.
The impact of heat on worker productivity and economic losses has already led to income losses of up to 10 percent in industries where wages are already below average, such as garment manufacturing, transportation, and retail trade.
Increased food poisoning and diarrhea
Increased temperatures may result in food poisoning because food spoils more quickly in higher temperatures. A significant amount of food becomes poisonous when exposed to high temperatures; when food is heated, the microorganisms within it develop irritation and proliferate, poisoning individuals who consume it. Even last year, numerous hospitalizations for diarrhea and food poisoning attributable to heatwaves were reported.
Authorities are concerned that there may be an increase in the number of patients in hospitals if the heat wave continues during Eid holiday travel. In the coming days, storms and two to three moderate heatwaves may spread across the nation. A forecast for April also predicts flash flooding in northeastern Bangladesh by the end of the month.