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South Asia: Coping With The Heat And The Rolling Blackouts

Heatwaves during this time of year is not uncommon for countries in South Asia. But the recent dry weather has kept sufficient rain away from the region keeping the mercury rising. And load shedding (rolling electricity blackouts) due to power crisis in several countries have made the lives of millions of people unbearable.

Last Friday (April 24, 2009) was the hottest day of this summer (with 38.5 Celsius) for Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The Eastern parts of India is choking as mercury rises above 45 degree Celsius. Several deaths have been reported. Zoo officials in Patna took special measures to protect the animals from heat. There have been reports of forest fire in Nepal, and droughts in the typical rain prone areas.

The netizens are reacting strongly to this situation. Sukanya M writes in the post “United We Sweat” about the heat and the constant power cuts:

Phew. It's been unbearable.

Temperatures ranging around 40, 41, 41.8, and if we are lucky (like today), 39 degrees. Plus Humidity – according to Yahoo it is 84% today (felt like 100%). And of course power cuts everywhere and in a bizarre turn of affairs, Kolkata – Dumdum to Behala had 6-10 hours of power cut on Sunday..[..]

Here are some Twitter messages catching up the mood of common people:

calamur: Melting in the heat . #mumbai is seriously hot .

vitrag: afternoon heat, and boarding the Mumbai trains… damn it fells like stepping in the oven.

Amit Varma at The India Uncut jeers:

It’s so hot in Bombay… … that when I heat food in my microwave, it comes out colder.

In Bangladesh people are suffering badly because of heat wave and frequent rolling blackouts. Most people do not have air-condition at home; they use electric fans, which are useless during power cuts. Those who can afford to use power inverters do not get enough electricity to recharge the units. Worse, there is not enough electricity to run the water pumps. The water crisis has grown acute and people are protesting against the water shortage.

From Twitter:

dkhall44: Load shedding now at ridiculous levels in Dhaka. Electricity supply is cut for one hour every other hour. And its *38* degrees.

shahreaz: Working from the evening sounds more realistic in Dhaka. 6 hours of load shedding during the working hours do not make sense.

The power authorities have put up schedules of power outages online. Bernie Allen at Life & work in Dhaka city writes about the cause of the power outages in Dhaka:

Typical demand is 2000MW and one day this week we were allocated 1200W, so the shortfall had to be managed.

In Nepal, the power crisis has become a bit better. From an average of 14-16 hour load shedding a day the duration has come down. From Twitter:

zickme: Country facing an Electricity crisis and to over come this Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has imposed a 12 hrs load shedding each day.

Geshan's blog posts the load shedding schedule of Kathmandu showing the plights of the people.

The residents of Karachi city in Pakistan are facing unannounced power outages of 8 to 10 hour everyday. Pakistan Daily Photo posts pictures of how people are tackling the unbearable heat which is increasing day by day.

South Asia has seen much worse heatwaves than this. But the power crisis has really crippled peoples ability to cope with it. Until the rains bring some respite people will continue to suffer.

From Dhaka, battered by the heat, Blogger Kowshik is sarcastic [bn]:

সরকারের এখন বিদ্যুৎ এর বদলে বৃষ্টি উৎপাদনের চেষ্টা করা উচিত

The government should try to produce rains instead of electricity.

Even if it sounds imprudent, in this situation the people of South Asia cannot ignore this idea.

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