Intense heat has made farm, industry & construction workers in Karnataka fear & lose interest in work

Workers do not want to work as they fear for their well-being; other effects of heat on worker health also reported

As a fierce heatwave tightens its grip over India, the deadly impacts of heat on people are beginning to be seen. While a number of states have reported heat stroke deaths, there are also instances of the scorching heat affecting the mental wellbeing of people, especially those who work outdoors.

This is being seen in Karnataka, where between April 15 and May 15, 16 people had reported long bouts of exhaustion, dehydration, blurring of vision, brain malfunction, and, above all, disinterest in the conduct of daily routine work, according to state health department officials.

The central and northern parts of Karnataka are currently being swept by a heatwave. The cities of Shivmogga, Kalburgi, Bidar, Davanagere, Udupi, Vijayapura, Raichur, and Chitraduraga have recorded anything between 39 degrees Celsius and 42 degrees Celsius. Udupi, for the first time, hit 39 degrees Celsius twice in one week.

This intense heat is taking its toll on people in the field. Not just in agricultural fields but also in the construction and industry where they work either under direct sunlight or under sheds with metallic or asbestos sheets.

Losing interest in work

 “I and my wife have come to Udupi from Vijayapura during the summer every year for the last seven years, and this time we found the heat was as much as Vijayapura. We do construction work for a living. I work as a mason, while my wife works as a helper. We head back to our native district, Vijayapura, after the monsoons to work on our farm where we grow chillies. But this time, we are heading out much before the monsoons, as there is no work here,” Chamappa, a labourer working in Kinnimulky in Udupi on a construction site, told Down To Earth (DTE).

He added that his contractor was short of begging him to stay. “But I fear for myself and my wife. We both felt exhausted at mid-morning and felt like dozing off, just after working for one hour,” said Chamappa.

Similarly, there are cases of workers fainting, losing interest in working, and sudden loss of energy reported from 12 districts that are affected by the heatwave.

“These are the general signs of excess heat that affect people who work outdoors — gardeners, construction site workers, drivers of heavy vehicles, farmers and fishermen. We have sent advisories to the Deputy Commissioners of all districts affected by the heatwave to monitor the situation through the labour officials,” a top official of the health department told DTE.

The official added that managers of construction sites, farmers and transport companies have been briefed to advise workers to get adequate cooling off time, rehydration, and regulation of working hours.

Across the 12 districts that are affected by the heatwave, construction companies have asked workers to stop work at 11 am and resume after 3 pm.

“It affects our schedule of work and delays completion of the project in time, but we must understand that by regulating the working hours we will save our workers from suffering, and we can make up the lost time by infusing more units of labour after things cool down,” said Siraj Ahmed, a real estate developer and member of the CREDAI.

Members of the Karnataka Private hospitals and Nursing Home Association have reported that in their network, many people have been reporting temporary impairment of vision, loss of memory, loss of hearing, and loss of appetite.

“These are the signs of the heatwave effect on the human brain, and prolonged exposure to heatwaves may sometimes result in debility, especially in people over 50 years old. There is no way for humans to expose themselves to extreme heat conditions and for more than certain levels and durations,” said one of the senior members of the association in Bengaluru.

Highly vulnerable

Karnataka is highly vulnerable to heatwaves. Of 31 districts in the state, 15 are vulnerable to heatwaves on a different scale.

Climatological data indicates that North Interior Karnataka (NIK) districts are prone to high-temperature days. Other regions of the state — like South Interior Karnataka, Coastal and Malnad regions — are less prone to high temperatures when compared to NIK due to maritime air over these regions.

Still, on some occasions, high temperatures may also develop over these regions in situ under favourable conditions.

Considering the extent of vulnerable communities to high temperatures and heatwave conditions, the Government of Karnataka has prepared an action plan for heatwaves based on guidelines framed by the National Disaster Management Agency in 2023, some of which had come in handy in 2024, say the IMD officials in Bengaluru.

Source link

Most Popular

To Top