India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan has planned power cuts for factories for four hours, becoming at least the third state to halt industrial activity to cope with surging power demand amid intense heat waves.
Extreme heat continued to scorch much of South Asia this week, offering no respite from India’s hottest March on record and prompting comments from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India was heating up too soon.
The Indian state of West Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh brought industrial activity to a halt this month as demand for air conditioning peaked and economic activity rebounded following the end of coronavirus restrictions.
The desert state of Rajasthan also imposed four-hour power cuts in rural areas, exposing thousands of families in the desert state to extreme temperatures, with the peak of summer heat yet to come before the cooling June monsoon rains arrive. .
India’s peak electricity demand hit an all-time high on Tuesday and is expected to rise by a tenth over the next month. India’s meteorological department warned of worsening heat wave conditions in the coming days.
The unprecedented heat is putting millions of workers, including construction workers, farm workers, and factory floor workers, at serious risk. Sunburns have claimed the lives of thousands of Native Americans in the past.
Industrial disruptions and widespread power outages are also bad news for Indian businesses as economic activity has just recovered after months of stagnation amid coronavirus lockdowns.
A rapid rise in energy demand has also seen India push for coal, the main fuel for power generation. Coal stocks are at their lowest pre-summer levels in at least nine years, and electricity demand is expected to rise at the fastest rate in nearly four decades.
A shortage of trains is exacerbating the crisis, with India’s electricity minister telling a court-ordered meeting this week that train availability is 6% short of requirements.