BN-NN493_indwat_J_20160413085233NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — India’s killer heatwave is leaving the country’s residents reeling from their worst drought in decades and making it significantly more difficult for the rural population to survive.

Thanks to the La Nina weather pattern, the monsoon is scheduled to make an appearance mid-June, and forecasts have shown above-average rainfall. However, WaterAid India’s Head of Policy, Nitya Jacob, said during a recent interview that India’s groundwater levels are so depleted that even with the presence of a healthy monsoon season, it won’t be enough, despite claims from meteorologists that the monsoon would do precisely that.

“Even if the monsoon is good, it cannot compensate,” Jacob said.

India’s major reservoirs are currently 79 percent empty, according to data from the country’s Central Water Commission. Additionally, 75 percent of the country’s basins are holding less water than the 10-year average.

While this time of year is traditionally the warmest in India, temperatures have been abnormally high lately — temperatures have ranged from the lower 40s to as high as 47 degrees Celsius or 116 degrees Fahrenheit, three to five degrees Celsius above the normal average.

Even more, the past two monsoon seasons have brought below average rainfall.

“This has had a huge impact on groundwater supplies,” says Jacob.

The Indian government estimates these figures are currently impacting 330 million people on the ground. “We are seeing that people don’t even have enough water for drinking,” says Jacob. Several of the country’s academics and activists wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over the drought’s impact on India’s rural population.

“In areas where rains have failed, farmers who depend mainly on rainwater to irrigate their crops have no, or very low, crop yields,” they wrote.

“Those who rely on irrigation are also affected, with groundwater sinking and streams and reservoirs drying up.”


So far the government estimates 370 people have died as a direct result of this year’s heatwave, a much less staggering figure compared to the 2,500 deaths in 2015, registered as one of the top five deadliest years in recorded history. The state of Andhra Pradesh saw more than 1,300 deaths in 2015.

In preparation, 10 cities across the hottest parts of the country have teamed up with different organizations in an effort to combat the heatwave.

“All of the plans are focused on the most vulnerable population who don’t have access to air conditioning, or have to work outdoors,” says Anjali Jaiswal, Natural Resources Defense Council’s India Initiative director.

Solutions range from warning systems, to medical training, to enforcing harsher management of power and water usage during times of cooler temperatures. In Bihar, an increased threat of wildfires has resulted in a town-wide cooking ban between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.