Hoor Asrar describes the bad spell of heat
Pakistan swelters amidst powerful failures are currently in the grip of sweltering heat that has badly unnerved the citizenry of the country. Searing temperatures have affected almost the entire country that has been rendered far worse due to consistent power failures with no end in sight both for the heat as well as power outages. The warnings in respect of rise in global temperatures have been regularly issued particularly for the subcontinent forecasting that average temperatures would register an increase of 6°C to 8°C. It was also forecast that rainfall figures would drop with 62 per cent less rain so far this year causing rivers and dams to practically run dry. These forecasts are turning true as is witnessed by the early onset of summer that has badly hit Pakistan with millions in the throes of a heatwave. A heatwave is declared when the maximum temperature is over 40C and at least 4.5C above normal.
Pakistan has been experiencing severely hot conditions for the last two months — March and April with April turning out to be the hottest month in the last 61 years. It was noted that this is the first time in decades that Pakistan is experiencing what many call a spring-less year. Glaciers in the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karkoram mountain ranges have melted rapidly, creating thousands of glacial lakes in northern Pakistan, around 30 of which were at risk of sudden hazardous flooding and around 7 million people are rendered vulnerable. Most of the plains in vast areas of the country including Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan are in the grip of severe heat as climatic conditions were becoming increasingly favourable for the transmission of multiple infectious diseases by directly affecting biological features of pathogens including their growth survival and virulence.
Turbat has been suffering through weeks of temperatures that have repeatedly hit almost 50C (122F), unprecedented for this time of year. Locals have been driven into their homes, unable to work except during the cooler night hours, and are facing critical shortages of water and power. It was here, in 2021, that the world’s highest temperature for May was recorded, a staggering 54C. The maximum temperature was also recorded as 49°C in Jacobabad on 30 April, 2022 and Sibi in Pakistan’s southeastern part recorded highs of 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) that was the highest temperature recorded in any city in the Northern Hemisphere on that day. Khairpur in Sindh was the second warmest place with 46 °C. On the other hand, maximum temperature of 45 °C was recorded in Layyah, Jacobabad, Khanewal, Kot Ado and it was forecast that weather is likely to remain hot and dry in the plains of Punjab and Sindh.
The current spate of heat has witnessed Nawabshah recording the hottest global temperature at 50°C in April which is usually the tail-end of the spring season. In March, Karachi witnessed the hottest night since 1961 when temperature remained 29.4 degrees Celsius while in April, minimum temperature of 28.5 degrees Celsius was recorded on 29 April, 2022. The heatwave has already had a devastating impact on crops, including wheat and various fruits and vegetables. In India, the yield from wheat crops has dropped by up to 50% in some of the areas worst hit by the extreme temperatures, worsening fears of global shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has already had a devastating impact on supplies. Though Pakistan is not rated for its role in the crucial matter of climate change yet it is one of the countries most affected by its adverse effects. The current heatwave is experienced right across the country and there appears to be no chances of its reduction as the climate experts do not forecast any break in the near future.
The problem for Pakistanis flustered by sweltering heat has been aggravated by prolonged power outages, especially in large parts of Punjab, while the early onset of summer has badly affected the wheat crop. The menace of load-shedding swept across the country leaving homes and businesses in the dark as temperatures continued to rise ahead of a forecast heatwave. It was reported that the current gap in demand and supply was widening fast owing to a drop in power generation by thermal plants, brought on by a severe shortage of gas and other fuels. With increasing temperatures, the total shortfall is ranging between 7,000 to 8,000MW and it may surge further if the hot and dry weather persists in the coming days. It was pointed out that the demand on Lahore Electric Supply Company alone surged to 4,600MW whereas supply was near 3,900MW. It was also mentioned that the total power demand figure from the country (excluding Karachi) at 18,500MW in peak hours, while only 14,500MW were being supplied.
Most parts of the country are also experiencing long power outages. It was reported from Khanewal that the city is facing 12 to 14 hours of load-shedding on a daily basis. From Sukkur the residents complained that no one was even available to register their complaints. Citizens complained of 6 to 10 hours of outages in urban areas, while those in rural parts of the country — including localities falling within the service area of high-loss feeders — witnessed 8 to 16 hours of load-shedding. It was reported that the duration of power outages has gone up to eight hours or more in Lahore; four to six hours in the day and two to four hours at night.
Even in Islamabad and Rawalpindi there is no respite from the prolonged outages, with people complaining that life had become very difficult for them under the prevailing circumstances. People complain that they regularly paid electricity bills but they did not get electricity as per their requirement. People are not satisfied by the explanations offered by managers of electricity supplying utilities that they were studying the power load management at different times in most parts of Punjab, mainly due to the rapid increase in demand for electricity due to rising temperatures and the temporary difference in demand and supply of electricity.
Large parts of KP including Peshawar and its adjoining districts are also facing hours-long power outages. The load-shedding has jumped more than 14 hours for past two days and that prolonged shedding was also causing gas outages as many people were running gas generators. In addition to this, Charsadda, Nowshera and Khyber were also facing prolonged power cuts and in many areas people complain of load shedding in excess of 15 hours per day. Citizens of Karachi did not have any relief either as K-Electric piled miseries on consumers by announcing two-hour load-shedding in specific areas of the city. KE tried to explain that its production capacity is also being affected due to a shortage of fuel. To manage the situation, two hours of load management is being undertaken. Like other parts of the country, Balochistan is also facing acute shortage of power supply, causing long load-shedding across the province while temperature was increasing with passing of everyday. Quetta was facing 6 to 8 hours load-shedding while in many other areas the people were getting power supply 6 to 8 hours. TW