Meltdown 2016

‘Hot as hell’: Bengaluru neighbourhoods were 5°C warmer this March

Tracking heat and water stress across India this summer.

Bengaluru has seen warm summers in recent years, but there’s something different this time. Everyone is aghast that the city has seen several days over the past month when daytime temperatures have been higher than sweltering Chennai. Where are the pleasantly cool evenings? Where are the showers that cooled the city down after a few warm days? What happened to the city whose weather would earn it comparisons with hill stations?

Bengaluru had its first spell of pre-monsoon showers in early April, alleviating, but only a little, the brutality of the summer. The heat descended on the city as early as February when the city recorded a temperature of 35.5 degrees Celsius on February 22 – four degrees above normal and the hottest February day in more than 10 years. Night temperatures recorded at that time were three degrees above normal.

In March 2015, private weather forecaster Skymet reported that March temperatures were unusually high by Bengaluru standards. In the last 10 years, Bengaluru’s temperature crossed the 36 degree Celsius mark only three times – in 2005, 2013 and in 2014 – and only at the very end of March. In 2015, temperatures spiked in mid-March. This year, day and night temperatures have been significantly above normal even before March 15.

Graph: Accuweather
Graph: Accuweather

Some Bengaluru neighbourhoods have experienced five degrees more heat than they did last year, according to data gathered by remote environment sensing start-up Yuktix. Yuktix, which makes devices to record weather patterns, has been installing small automatic weather stations across the city to record temperature and other data. Rajeev Jha, the founder of Yuktix, compared temperature trends for Jayanagar and HSR Layout in south Bengaluru for 2015 and 2016 to find a dramatic increase in the maximum and minimum temperatures this year.

Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies

“The interesting thing is that for HSR Layout, the spread is more than Jayanagar or Hebbal,” said Jha, while emphasising that he is not a climatologist but a device maker. Jha feels that this difference may be due to more concrete surfaces in HSR Layout.

Last year, Jha compared data between stations located in open areas with little construction, like the grounds of the University of Agricultural Sciences, and a locality called Vidyaranyapura, which is close to the university but populated with buildings. He found that the open spaces didn’t heat up very quickly and maintained a temperature equilibrium, while areas with a lot of concrete showed temperature spikes.

Jha’s findings fit in with the phenomenon of urban heat islands seen around the world – metropolitan areas that are warmer than their surroundings because of human activities. Urban heat islands are created by heat discharge due to energy consumption, larger land surfaces plastered over with artificial materials that have high heat capacities and less cooling when vegetation and water bodies are lost.

Scientists from the Center for Ecological Studies at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru have documented the emergence of the urban heat island in Bengaluru in a 2010 paper. The study showed that the urban areas of the city grew by 632% in the years between 1973 and 2009. That growth, accompanied by a 76% loss of vegetation cover and a 79% decline of the city’s water bodies could have caused the cities temperatures to rise between 2 and 2.5 degrees Celsius in the first decade of the 21st century.

Given the sorry state of Bengaluru's lakes, the unabated and unregulated construction across the city and the continued loss of vegetation, it shouldn't really surprise anyone that the forecast for the coming week shows highs of 38 degree Celsius for the city.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.


SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.