Pathanamthitta: Kerala has entered another scorching summer as early as March. The rising temperature is uncharacteristic for this time of the year, weather researchers have said. A dip in atmospheric humidity could lead to sunburns, they have warned.
Weathermen also pointed to the possibility of summer rains in the eastern parts of the Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Kottayam, Wayanad and Kozhikode districts.
Sunburns are mostly the result of low humidity (below 50 percent of air) and the resulting decrease in sweating. People in Kerala, however, have been sweating it out for the past four or five days as humidity levels reached 70 to 80 percent.
Kerala usually enters a stage of unbearable heat after mid-March. This year, however, mercury shot up to 38 degree Celsius as early as the last week of February.
The thermometer installed at the Integrated Rural Technology Centre (IRTC) at Mundoor in Palakkad district has crossed 41 degrees. Vellanikkara in Thrissur recorded 38 degrees, while Punaloor in Kollam recorded 37 degrees and Kottayam 39 degrees. Even the coastal town of Alappuzha has breached its previous record of 31 degrees to record 34 degrees this summer.
The health department officials have warned of complications for the aged and the sick. A rise in temperature could throw a spanner in the body works. This could make people more vulnerable to diseases.
Between 2010 and 2015, a rise in temperature has contributed to 1,300 to 2,500 deaths in the country, according to data available with the union health department.
A rise in temperature has increased the likelihood of wildfires. Animal raids have become the norm in the villages bordering forests as the summer has sucked up the waterholes in the forests.
Though people who work in hilly regions are less likely to be affected with sunstroke (the intensity of sun is lower in areas higher than 3,000 feet above sea level), workers in the plains should be more alert. Outdoor work should be avoided between noon and 3 pm. The labour department has advised for a rescheduling of work timings from 7 am to 7 pm to factor in the long lunch break.
Livestock at risk
The Kerala animal husbandry department has also put out an advisory to be careful with livestock. An unprecedented number of cattle died due to the heat wave last year.
Do not tether cattle in open places directly under the sun. It is advised to keep them in the shed when the sun is intense. Each head of cattle requires at least 60 litres of water per day. They could do with two baths a day.
Even goats need special care in the summer. Watch if their legs are shivering. That could be the first sign of sunstroke. Shift them immediately to a shed, lest they fall. You can feed them straw because they may not find enough green fodder.
Not a drop
Though Kerala is blessed with two abundant seasons of monsoon, the people face a drinking water shortage every summer. Rainwater harvesting is yet to take off from official files.
We have to acknowledge the fact that the climate of Kerala is changing for the worse. The state is resembling more of a desert after each passing summer. This summer may be one or two degrees warmer than the previous years, experts have warned.
It is never too early to make water conservation a part of our daily routine. We have to keep a tab on overuse and pollution too.
A starting point could be the way we take frequent showers. The high humidity and a perception of abundant water have prompted us to take a shower at least twice a day.
How to take a bath
Check out this data. Every time you take a bath in a bucketful of water, you waste about 20 litres of fresh water. If you are used to take bath in two buckets of water, you are responsible for 40 litres of water. The consumption could be anywhere above 100 litres if you are taking a shower.
You could also take a bath using half a bucket of water. Slowly pour a cup of water over your head and smear it all over the body using the other hand. You could pour another cup of water over your head the same way before you lather up. You do not have to lather all parts of your body as the soap manufacturers have told you in umpteen advertisements. You only need to take care of the sweaty parts.
Clean yourself of the soap using two or three cups of water. You could top it up by another cup, reserving the rest of water to wash your towel. You could save a significant amount of water if you stop using soap at least once a day.
It is a good idea to take a bath outdoors, by the trees in your yard. Beware, do not annoy your neighbours. In olden days, every bath in the open would water the plants too.
Do not pollute rivers and tanks by soap. The oil you apply on your hair is also a pollutant.
A lion’s share of domestic water consumption happens in the kitchen. Make sure your plate is clean of any leftovers before you wash them. Just wet the plate under a trickle of water by slightly opening the tap. Scrub it well. You do not need any dish-cleaning liquid unless you have eater meat, fish or oily food. It is a good thing to keep away from oily food during the summer.
If you collect the water you wash the utensils with, instead of letting it drain out of the tub, you could use it to water your kitchen garden. If a coconut tree is watered with at least 40 litres in the summer, it pays you back, farmers have testified. You could also divert the waste water from the bathroom to the backyard farm.
Decay is good
It is a misconception to set the dry leaves and other materials on fire. People think that the ash is a good manure. In fact, nothing nourishes the soil than the slowly decaying leaves and plants. The naturally kept soil retains moisture.
Do not cover every square inch of your yard under a slab of concrete or tiles. Let the rainwater sink in to earth and add to the groundwater. Keep a basin of water in the yard. Birds could use it in the summer.
Every year, the Kerala Water Authority issues an advisory prohibiting the use of treated drinking water for washing cars or other vehicles. Treating a litre of water costs the authority up to Rs 4.
You do not have to wash your car every day. Just give it a good dusting. Never ever wash the vehicles by the water bodies.
Remove the washers of the pipes and taps to ensure that they do not leak. Every drop of water is precious. Together they make up gallons.
The introduction of the western-style commodes has increased the wastage of water. Every time you flush, 10 to 20 litres go down the drain. Keep a tab on the flush every time you take a leak. You do not have to open the entire valve. You could keep a bottle filled with water inside the flush tank to prevent it from filling up to the mark.
If you are one who pumps water from the well to water your farm, be aware. If you pump out a large quantity of water at one go, you may be cutting the connection between your well and the streams that feed it. Your well may gradually become useless. Pump in intervals.
If you are not too busy, try drawing from the well the old-fashioned way. It will keep you and your well fit.
For future generations
You have to view groundwater as an investment for future. The people who have dug a bore well for you might have advertised it by saying you could draw as much water as you want. You cannot. You have to be thrifty in the usage of water because it is an investment you can’t add to.
You can recharge the groundwater though. All you need to do is to set up channels for water to travel from your roof to the well. Even if you do not have a well, or simply unable to set up a recharge system, you could dig a pit and recharge the water.
Purification of a litre of water takes up to seven liters of water. Never pollute a water body. Do not litter rivers and ponds and tanks. Dumping waste into rivers can get you behind bars for up to three years.
The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (Pusa Institute) in Delhi has shown the way in treating sewage water and using it for farming. Waste water from the restrooms of many large establishments in the city is being used for farming. We could emulate the system in our apartment complexes.
Kerala could expect bouts of summer rains in the afternoon from March. Be prepared to store as much as rainwater in vessels and whatever you can find.
Most often, the tankers that supply drinking water to parched areas in the summer may be used for transporting other liquids as well. Ensure that your supplier adheres to safety norms.
Abandoned quarries is a good place to store rainwater. They could be used to meet the needs of the locality at least. Paddy fields can also be prepared to harvest rainwater.
Make drinking water available in public places and places frequented by people.