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Scorching heatwave affecting aquatic species, livestock

Education being impacted also hits food production
TBP Online
21 Apr 2024 21:04:15 | Update: 21 Apr 2024 21:04:15
Scorching heatwave affecting aquatic species, livestock
— Courtesy Photo

Soaring heatwaves will have adverse impacts not only on people’s life, it will disturb the balance of nature affecting the overall food production by putting aquatic species and livestock in danger.

Climate scientists said heatwave-induced complexities among humans are always being taken into account, but its impacts on aquatic species and livestock are not considered properly. Heatwaves contribute to the decline of dissolved oxygen in water-bodies, they said, adding that farm animals also get sick frequently, cutting the farm output, reports BSS.

Severe heatwaves has been sweeping over many parts of the country for the last few days. The temperature soared to 42.6 degrees Celsius on Saturday in Jashore, while the maximum temperature in Dhaka was 40.4 degrees Celsius. The Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) warned that there was no end in sight for the heat.

According to the BMD, a very severe heatwave is sweeping over Pabna, Jashore and Chuadanga districts. A severe heatwave is sweeping over Dhaka and Khulna divisions and the district of Rajshahi too.

A mild to moderate heatwave is sweeping over Barishal division and parts of Rajshahi divisions and Mymensingh, Moulvibazar, Feni, Cox’s Bazar, Chandpur and Rangamati and it may continue over the next two days.

Scientists have said climate change is contributing to more frequent, severe, and longer heatwaves in Bangladesh during its summer months.

“Apart from causing heat strokes due to exposure to heatwaves, germs like bacteria and viruses can spread amid extreme heat affecting humans.

The cases of pneumonia and influenza may increase in the country due to high temperature,” Dr Mohan Kumar Das, climate scientist at Bangkok-based Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), told BSS.

He said although heatwave-induced complexities among humans are always being taken into account, its impacts on livestock are not considered properly. 

Citing findings of a study, Dr Mohan said heatwaves severely hit the livestock sector, contributing to the decline of milk production and making cattle ill. 

As water bodies and greenery coverage have been declining in the country, the heat in summer months is increasing, he said, adding that heatwave also contributes to the decline of dissolved oxygen in water, affecting aquatic species.

“People dwelling in city heat islands are feeling more heat, so they should remain careful and drink enough water to avoid heat strokes,” said Dr Md Iqbal Kabir, the director of the Climate Change and Health Promotion Unit under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Predicting that the heatwave may delay rainfall in the upcoming monsoon affecting agriculture, he said fever and water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, hepatitis and typhoid may spread due to the heatwave.

Heatwave hits food production

Just like heatwaves make life difficult, especially in cities, agricultural lands suffer heavily from rising temperatures. Heatwaves endangers nature’s ability to produce food, according to experts.

In 2021, heat shock ruined 21,000 hectares (52,000 acres) of rice paddy across Bangladesh.

 The burning temperature even causes mangos and litchi flowers to dry out and wilt. 

“The production of mangos and litchi is going to be affected by the heatwave. Famers have already understood this,” Dr Mohan said.

The World Bank in 2021 estimated that heatwaves can lead to a 10-15 per cent decrease in rice yields, a staple crop for the nation. This not only impacts food security but also disrupts the entire agricultural value chain, affecting farmers’ income and food processing and transportation.

A study by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) shows reduced crop yields due to heat stress on plants and increased water demand for irrigation, compounded by dry spells.

Bangladesh has been severely affected by extreme heatwaves. Extreme climate events, particularly heatwaves, impact the food system, and pose risks to human health in Bangladesh, explicitly in the north-west part of the country, according to new research published in the journal Science Direct in January 2024.

Education being impacted

Due to the ongoing heatwave, the government has already decided to close primary and secondary schools for seven days, from Apr 21 to Apr 27, as the heatwave cooks the country.

Classes will remain closed in colleges across the country affiliated to the National University until further notice. However, no decision has been taken yet from the public universities.

Falling in poverty due to their livelihood loss due to extreme weather events, parents stop their children from going to schools and force girls to marry off to ease their family burden and boys to get involved in child labour to support their families, said Dr Golam Rabbani, head of Climate Bridge Fund Secretariat at BRAC.

He said as part of a study, consultations were held with school teachers in Rajshahi and Khulna and they informed that many of the students, especially girls, do not attend classes due to heatwave during pre-monsoon (March-April-May) and the trend of absence is on the rise as the hot days are increasing.

A 2021 report by the World Bank said Bangladesh regularly experiences some of the highest maximum temperatures in Asia, with an average monthly maximum of around 30 degrees Celsius and an average April maximum of 33 degrees Celsius.

“Bangladesh will experience emerging hot and humid seasons, in which the Heat Index surpasses 35 degrees Celsius,” the report said.

Over the past 44 years, the average temperature in Bangladesh has risen by 0.5 degrees Celsius, the World Bank said in its “Climate Afflictions” report. By 2050, that average will rise by 1.4 degrees Celsius.