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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: With nearly four heat waves sweeping Odisha till date in 2019, when nearly a month of the summer season is still left, the shocker is in the last decade number of heat waves engulfed the State had risen by a whopping 450 per cent!

Sample this: The number of heat waves swept across the State in 1970-79 were mere 2, which means the State witnessed heat wave twice during the decade. The number then had risen to 7 and 9 during the two successive decades of 1980-89 and 1990-99. In fact, coastal Odisha's first brush with heat wave was in 1998, when nearly 200 people succumbed to intense heat wave that enveloped the entire coastal belt for the first time in State's history.

Post the 1998 intense heat wave, came the 1999 super cyclone. In fact, year 1999 saw two cyclones hitting Odisha in a span of mere 15-days. Since then Odisha has been in the epicentre of 'extreme' natural events.

Consider this.  Post the 1999 super cyclone, the number of heat waves gripped the State zoomed by a whopping 343 per cent. The decade of 2000-09 saw around 31 heat waves from mere 7 in the earlier decade. Significantly, the State breathed easy for three year period of 2010-2013, when Odisha on an average witnessed mere 2 heat waves per year.

However, as the State bore the brunt of extremely severe cyclone Phailin in 2013, the year 2014 again witnessed intense heat wave. As many 10 heat waves gripped the State in 2014.  The following year, means 2015, Odisha witnessed one of its worst drought. But the State witnessed three heat waves. The year 2016 saw mere 2 heat waves.

However, since 2017 the extreme natural events happen at a rapid pace in Odisha. The year 2017 recorded a whopping 41 heat waves - the hottest ever year in Odisha's history since 1970, when recording of temperatures have started in India.

Last year, that means in 2018, Odisha witnessed 22 heat waves and 2 cyclones (Daye and Titli). This was the first year in State's history when Odisha witnessed intense heat waves and also cyclones in tow later.

The notable fact here is Odisha had witnessed heat waves either preceding or following the cyclone years, be it 1998 heat wave year followed by 1999 super cyclone or the years following the super cyclone year.

In Odisha's climatic history, year 2017 was the worst year ever. Not only heat waves, Odisha topped the country in lightning deaths in country in 2017.

Interestingly, extreme weather events are an outcome of climate change. The signs of climate change are heat waves, cold waves and cyclones. All the signs manifest quite conspicuously in Odisha. And the impact was more discernible since 2017.

Take this for instance. Odisha  during the period of 1990 - 2016 had witnessed mere 5 cold waves. But since 2017, the number of cold waves shivering Odisha posted a sudden spurt.  When the number of cold waves the State witnessed in 2017 were 11, it jumped to 15 in 2018.

Moreover, Odisha had never witnessed any extremely severe cyclone in the month of April- May since last three decades. The increasing pace of natural catastrophes in Odisha, therefore, point to an emerging ominous trend in Odisha.

The bottom line: Odisha, which touted itself as the first State to have a climate change monitoring group to suggest policy changes to mitigate increasing natural calamities, and have also won plaudits from World Bank and UNEP, seems clueless as all the policy stances remained on paper only.

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