Climate Change: Greenpeace India unveils a museum of people’s lived heatwave experiences

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New Delhi, 10th June – In a moving display, Greenpeace India’s Museum of Memories brought to life real human stories in the face of the unrelenting heat waves in India. Over 50 objects of memories and art installations that narrate powerful stories of devastation, resilience and hope in the face of the heatwave crisis are displayed at the Triveni Kala Sangam. Each of these objects have been collected from families across the country who were gravely impacted by heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Through this exhibit, Greenpeace India is calling for immediate governmental action to address the intensifying heatwave crisis by declaring heatwaves as a notified national disaster.

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“A lot of climate conversations revolve around data and statistics. As important as these numbers are in assessing the current state of the climate crisis, those behind these numbers are real people, with aspirations, lives and loved ones. The Museum of Memories is a reminder that the heatwave crisis is a humanitarian crisis. In the recent weeks we have seen multiple media reports on people suffering and dying due to the heat. These are not freak weather incidents anymore and should be looked at as symptoms of the larger climate crisis at hand.” says Amruta SN, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Data shows that in the period between 1992 and 2015, 24,223 citizens of India lost their lives due to heatwaves. Although heat waves have resulted in a worrying number of fatalities they haven’t garnered proportionate public attention. The approach of both the Central and State governments toward heat waves has been reactionary, with limited focus on reducing risks. Since heatwaves are still not a notified national disaster, state governments are only allowed to allocate up to 10 percent of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for relief, mitigation and adaptation measures.

“The government doesn’t acknowledge heatwaves as a disaster. Therefore, it does not have in place a systemic and proportionate response to heatwaves, even on paper. It is callous to ignore a phenomenon that is set to visit us annually, almost without fail. One that is set to intensify and spread wider. A phenomenon that hurts our poorer citizens – their health, lives and livelihoods – disproportionately” says Nitin Sethi, founder-editor The Reporters’ Collective.

Among the 50 articles on display is a bright yellow and blue toy truck that belongs to a young boy Bittu from Manjhave, Jharkhand. Bittu was on his way to a family gathering in April 2023 when he collapsed and passed away due to the heat. India experienced one of its harshest summers in April last year during which over 60 percent of the country reported temperatures exceeding the normal range.

‘The heat is intense. So many women are unable to go to work and are therefore unable to earn money. Several of them have fallen sick because of the heat. This is a daily loss for many women. We need measures to be put in place, especially for the informal sector, particularly women. Heat has to be declared as a national disaster’ says independent journalist Bhumika Saraswati while on a shoot in UP capturing the impact of heatwaves on women working outdoors. Bhumika’s photo stories on heat and its impact on women are also part of the Museum of Memories exhibit.

The exhibit will be on display from June 9th to 22nd at the Triveni Kala Sangam in Delhi. As part of the People for Climate campaign, Greenpeace India will also be releasing a report on June 14th that documents the heatwave experiences of street vendors in Delhi.

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