• Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

Heatwave increases living expenses


Apr 15, 2023

A pours water on head to cool off.
Porthom Alo
Shabnam Jahan, from capital’s Shewrapra, works in a private firm. She used to take a rickshaw ride for Tk 50 daily to go to her office at Mirpur 10. As the heat wave started recently, rickshaw pullers began charging an additional fare of Tk 20-20 a ride.

Likewise, hot weather contributes to a rise in other expenditures, with people concerned saying a prolongation of the heat wave is likely to affect the overall economy of the country.

According to the met office, heat waves has been sweeping in 90 per cent area of the country over the past couple of days with day temperature likely to rise more in the next couple of days.

Additionally, people fall ill, sometimes may even die during extreme heat with elderly people often feeling fatigue and facing a risk of heat stroke. More than 166,000 people, according to World Health Organization, died of heath wave globally between 1998 and 2017.

Amid the hot weather, people try in various ways to get a little relief despite rising expenditures. People purchase air conditioners for home and office, thus, increasing the electricity bill. They also spend money on foods and drinks to cool off.

According to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report, use of air-cooling machines may contribute to an 83 per cent rise in household electricity bills by 2100.

Extreme heat may affect economy of the country. Several sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, minerals, mining, transport, and construction contribute more than 50 per cent to the GDP (gross domestic product) of Bangladesh. A majority of the workers work in the open in these sectors. However, there is no concrete data on this workforce. Those who work in the open are forced to cut their working hours during summer.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) said currently the heat wave is sweeping over 49 districts of the country. According to a report of science website Phys.org, extreme hot weather lowers production in agriculture and construction sectors significantly, and that means infrastructure construction is likely to be disrupted and crop yield is likely to fall.

Production of crops like maize, soybean and cotton fall during extreme heat, affecting farmers with low production contributing to a rise in price of these crops in local and global markets, but at the end of day it is the customers bear the brunt of the high price.

Extreme heat also hits transportation of goods. Since there is no adequate cold chain infrastructure in the country, food products may perish in the heat.

Studies find productivity of workers fall during hot temperature, even if they work in air-conditioning facility overall economic growth falls.

Loss of workforce in Dhaka
According to a report of the International Labour Organization, projections based on a global temperature rise of 1.5°C by the end of the twenty-first century, and also on labour force trends, suggest that, in 2030, 2.2 per cent of total working hours worldwide will be lost to high temperatures – a productivity loss equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.

The economic losses due to heat stress at work were estimated at US$280 billion in 1995; this figure is projected to increase to US$2,400 billion in 2030, with the impact of heat stress being most pronounced in lower-middle- and low-income countries, the report said.

A 2022 study by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, a joint initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, said extreme heat and humidity cause labour productivity-related losses greater than 8 per cent of annual output generated in Dhaka today —and by 2050 this could increase to 10 per cent.

Labour productivity causes output losses under these conditions, that amount to around $6 billion in a typical year—comparable in real terms to estimates of the total economic losses to the whole of Bangladesh from the one-in-a-hundred-year flooding in 2004—rising to almost $12 billion by 2050 without adaptation, using conservative growth assumptions, the report added.
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According to a 2018 study, the US economy grows relatively slow in summer with growth falling by 0.15 to 0.25 percentage points following a rise of 1 degree Fahrenheit in temperature.

More than three-fourths of the population, according to report of the World Bank published in 2018, are at a risk of witnessing a decline in living standards in Bangladesh because of climate change-related temperature rise and irregular rainfall and erratic rainfalls.

Collective responsibility
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), observed, “We have a collective responsibility behind this economic loss caused by extreme heat.”

“We are getting a new understanding because of economic loss caused by extreme heat. We have done urbanisation and industrialisation for economic development, but there has been an economic loss as much as we are making progress,” he added.

Meanwhile, as the heat wave sweeps over the country, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) advised farmers to keep water as high as two-three inches in the boro field until the grain become strong on the sheaves of paddy. Mango growers were also advised to water their trees and, if necessary, spray water on three branches and leaves.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna


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