Delhi heat wave: ‘Out all day in the sun, but no relief at night’ | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Delhi heat wave: ‘Out all day in the sun, but no relief at night’

Jun 19, 2024 05:24 PM IST

Delhi residents, including migrant workers and ragpickers, struggle to sleep in the blazing heat

Ramvati, 60, a ragpicker, has been sleeping along the main road under the Raja Garden flyover for the last one week. Her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren join her, and so do 50 other residents from the small unauthorised colony, to which she belonged, on the outskirts of Ramesh Nagar in west Delhi.

Homeless people seen staying inside a night shelter amid extreme hot weather conditions at Lodhi Road in New Delhi(HT Photo/Raj K Raj)
Homeless people seen staying inside a night shelter amid extreme hot weather conditions at Lodhi Road in New Delhi(HT Photo/Raj K Raj)

As Delhi recorded the fifth consecutive “warm night” when the night-time temperature is at least five degrees above normal, thousands of people living in night shelters, unauthorised colonies and makeshift shacks struggle to sleep a wink due to the blazing heat.

“The concrete road is colder at night than the mud floor and mattress in our hut. Fans don’t work due to lack of power supply. We work all day out in the sun, and there is no relief at night,” said Ramvati, who goes by single name.

The migrant workers, who live across the over 200 JJ clusters and unauthorised colonies of Delhi, are the worst affected with water and power shortages hitting them first. The residents said that on most nights, there is hardly any power supply and when they face a water crisis, tankers do not reach their areas.

Roma Das, 32, works in a plastic factory at Mayapuri area in west Delhi. After returning from her eight-hour gruelling factory shift to her cramped 5x8 room with a ceiling height not more than six feet and no running water connection, the nights feel like nightmares.

“We are required to work with machines emitting heat continuously. So, there is no option of a fan or cooler. Even at nights, I can’t sleep peacefully. There is not enough space to install a cooler in the room,” said Das who lives with her mother and two children.

Mohammed Jahangir migrated from Purnia, Bihar, in search of livelihood more than a decade ago and lives in the same slum near Mayapuri Industrial area phase 1. He is a rickshaw puller and cannot afford to rest even when he is sick.

“The doctor said that I got a heatstroke, but I don’t know if it was in the day or at night. I carry a two-litre water bottle wrapped with a wet cloth while working. I live in a room with one fan. The roof made of asbestos sheets and concrete walls get hot during the day and become suffocating at night as there is no ventilation. It is better to stay outside as inside the room, it feels like a furnace,” Jahangir added.

The government night shelters across the city also paint a picture of suffering.

Ramesh Singh, 38, a rickshaw puller, who resides in a porta cabin on Lodi Road said, “They provide shelter but don’t care for the place at all. I sometimes get drunk to get some sleep without a fan at night,” he said.

A 45-year-old caretaker of the porta cabin on condition of anonymity admitted that the fans do not function. There are 19 beds at the facility with two functional coolers. A Delhi Jal Board tanker comes twice a day and the coolers, with about 80 litres of capacity, are filled, he said.

“I have complained about the coolers multiple times. What can I do beyond that,” he added.

Another night shelter at Geeta Colony in east Delhi comprises a four-storey building with 45 beds each on three floors for men, and 14 divisions on the top floor for families. Among them, two floors in the middle have no coolers.

Mukhiya Yadav, 28, a labourer, who resides in the shelter said, “People fight to stay on the ground floor as there is a cooler. There is ruckus almost every night over lack of coolers on two floors. There are about 15 fans for the 45-bed space, but they are hardly effective.”

The 29-year-old caretaker of the facility on condition of anonymity said, “I have informed the management about this.”

Under the flyover along the Mahatma Gandh Road, four coconut water vendors sleep at their stalls.

“I used to lie on the floor at night. But now the ground has started heating up so horribly, that I sleep while sitting on a scrap sofa with a pedestal fan directed at my face. It is also better for business as people nowadays turn up for coconut water even early in the morning,” said Tasleem Ahmad who lives alone in Delhi with his family in Kanpur.

Subrata Chakrabarty, associate program director (climate programme), WRI India, said, “From a policy perspective, governments must identify the heat hot spots, which can be facilitated by vulnerability assessment. This will provide a clear pathway for policymakers to focus on developing interventions to mitigate excessive heat. Secondly, a financial road map needs to be developed that can be used to invest in community cooling infrastructure, implement early warning systems, increase green spaces, etc. Community-based adaptation measures can be implemented with the help of local authorities and civil society groups. Lastly, building the capacity of the policymakers and the community will go a long way in integrating the heat considerations into overall development policies, for example land use planning.”

HT reached out to Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, but did not get any response to request for comment.

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