Men and elderly at maximum risk due to extreme weather events, says study conducted across the country from 2001-2014
Weather-related deaths are on the rise globally and figures in India stand at a staggering 25%, noted a study conducted across the country from 2001-2014 by research-based organisation Population Council.
From 2001-2014, 25% of all accidental deaths in India due to unnatural causes happened as a result of extreme weather events, it said, adding that men and the elderly were at maximum risk.
Titled ‘Extreme Weather Event-Induced Deaths in India 2001–2014: Trends and Differentials by Region, Sex and Age Group’, the study was published this August.
“Deaths due to extreme precipitation and tropical cyclones declined over time, whereas an increasing trend was observed in case of lightning and extreme temperature conditions. Most extreme weather event-induced deaths were due to lightning, followed by extreme precipitation and temperature extremes,” said team leader Bidhubhusan Mahapatra.
The burden of deaths was the highest in central India, and Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal were affected the most by extreme weather events.
“Loss of human lives due to extreme weather events can have an impact on both macro and micro levels. At the micro level, the death of an individual can bring mental distress to the family and the loved ones. Moreover, the death of an income-generating individual can have more serious consequences as it can throw a household into the poverty trap. At the macro level, the demographic structure can change if deaths from a particular age or sex are more frequent,” co-authors Monika Walia and Niranjan Saggurti noted in the study.
Research on impact of extreme weather events-related deaths in India is rather limited.
Hence, the study gives an insight into the area. The study added that about one-quarter of all accidental deaths due to unnatural causes resulted from extreme weather events — which is about five deaths per one million persons.
Most deaths reported were due to lightning (40%), followed by extreme precipitation (24%), heatwave (20%) and cold wave (15%).
The study also found that a higher number of males died due to extreme weather events than females across all years and regions in the country.
A higher proportion of individuals who were 60 years or older died due to cold (47%) and heat (42%) waves than those in the younger age groups. In fact, four-fifths of the deaths due to cold and heatwaves were among individuals aged 44 years or older, said the study.
“In India, these extreme events each year are a challenge for governments and policymakers due to the extent of damage, diversity and distribution of extreme events, and size of the population affected. The current study assessed the magnitude of loss of human lives due to extreme weather events and examined the region, State and the demographics most affected,” noted the study.