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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Cities should be better equipped to tackle extremities of weather

As we await a thunderstorm, the sole saving grace of the summer are the fruits — melons, peaches, lychees and the queen of them all, the mango.

gurgaon Updated: Jun 13, 2019 08:08 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
Trees and shelters for sitting or waiting are also essential to make moving around public spaces more hospitable.
Trees and shelters for sitting or waiting are also essential to make moving around public spaces more hospitable. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
         

The temperature has hit 48 degrees this week and summer madness is upon us. This is the time of the year when we are all completely drained of energy and good will. The summer storms are a mixed blessing — while it may lower the temperature slightly for a day, the dust swirling around seems to settle on everything you can touch. The joy of the gulmohar and amaltas seems far behind and all that one can think of is how to avoid the blazing sun. The impending rain is not yet upon us and winter seems like it is never going to come again.

The one saving grace of the summer are the fruits — melons, peaches, lychees and the queen of them all, the mango. While we may begin the summer with the safeda and alphonso, we know that dasheri is around the corner, to be followed by the sharp langda (my personal favourite) and the sweet chaunsa. And in between, the juicy lychees appear on the streets for such a short period that if you don’t pick them up in the first few days, you may just miss the entire season.

When I moved to Delhi many years ago, I had only lived in warm and humid weather and had no idea what 45-degrees dry weather meant. Of course, I learnt very fast after my first heatstroke not to wander around in the middle of the day. I had flâneuring (walking around without a clear agenda) instincts even in those early days!

While there is nothing that can be done to the weather, it is important to see how our cities and public spaces can be made more hospitable and provide some succour to deal with the extreme weather. Making sure that water is made available in public places is something that has always been done in cities like Delhi and Gurugram. You will see earthen pots and even water coolers in many parts of the city. There are even some community refrigerators in some public places where people can leave food.

Trees and shelters for sitting or waiting are also essential to make moving around public spaces more hospitable. Most streets in Gurugram lack any tree cover, and walking on them in this extremely harsh weather is difficult. Bus stops and other transport waiting spaces need to be planned with shelters, some trees, as well as water. Public transport availability and frequency need to be addressed to enable safe and efficient mobility. The Metro is a cool way to travel and a respite from the extreme weather, but not affordable for all.

Parks and open public spaces are needed for usage in the early mornings and late evenings for walking, exercise and leisure as well as for children to play. While we have a few green open spaces in the city, many more are needed. Markets and other public areas also need space for respite.

While the heat affects us all, there are many people who do not have the option of avoiding the heat such as workers in the informal sector, domestic workers, men and women waiting at the daily labour market, as well as traffic police, bus drivers, street vendors and those carrying out deliveries all over the city. We all have to live through these summer days and wait for that first thunderstorm to cool down the air a bit. In the meanwhile eat mangoes and stay calm!

(Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities @SafetipinApp)

First Published: Jun 13, 2019 03:05 IST

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