*** This spring, temperatures hit nearly 50 degree Celsius across India and Pakistan, while Bangladesh and Sri Lanka sweltered under unusually high heat
Without adequate cooling, these conditions undermine countries’ development. When blistering heat strikes South Asia, the poor and most vulnerable, suffer the worst impacts. When it is too hot to work, wages are lost, pushing families into cycles of poverty. School hours are cut short, depriving children of education and future opportunities, says a World Bank report.
It said: The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that climate change is making heatwaves more likely. This spring, temperatures hit nearly 50 degree Celsius across India and Pakistan, while Bangladesh and Sri Lanka sweltered under unusually high heat. A study found that the heatwave across India and Pakistan was 30 times more likely this year than 100 years ago, due to climate change.
At home, where many people in South Asia live in inadequately ventilated buildings without access to cooling, extreme heat harms people’s health. Meanwhile, fragmented cold chain infrastructure leads to the loss of food and vaccines, putting nutrition and public health at risk.
The economic costs are staggering. With a large percentage of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) reliant on the heat-stressed shoulders of informal workers, extreme heat does not just jeopardise the health and livelihoods of the working poor, but also the economic productivity of the region. By 2030, lost labour due to rising heat and humidity could risk up to 4.5% of India’s GDP – approximately USD 150-250 billion. Pakistan and Bangladesh could suffer losses of up to 5% of their GDP.
As urban populations grow and temperatures rise across South Asia, so too does the demand for cooling. Keeping citizens cool while mitigating the environmental impacts – air conditioners and other cooling equipment release powerful greenhouse gases – is a challenge for governments across South Asia, which must prioritise cooling as a development strategy.
In 2019, India became one of the first countries in the world to launch a comprehensive cooling action plan – the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), an ambitious initiative to address the country’s cooling needs while reducing climate impacts. In June 2022, Bangladesh published its own National Cooling Plan, while in October last year Pakistan announced it will adopt one by 2026.
Take South Asia’s cities, for example, many of which are plagued by high levels of poverty and bad housing conditions. More than 200 million new homes need to be built in South Asia before 2050 to meet housing needs. This provides an opportunity to change the course of urban development in the region and adopt strategies that prioritise thermal comfort. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are responding to this challenge with affordable housing programmes.
In India, where 10 million new homes need to be built annually to keep up with housing demand, the government’s affordable housing scheme has the opportunity to incorporate nature-based solutions and passive cooling techniques – to prevent heat from building up within homes – into construction and urban planning. That means using climate-friendly insulation materials, like straw, combined with materials that have high thermal mass. According to World Bank Group analysis, space cooling in India alone presents a USD 1.5 trillion opportunity by 2040, of which USD 1.25 trillion is earmarked for residential buildings.
Opportunities to scale up affordable space-cooling technologies exist in housing schemes across the region. In Bangladesh, where the urban population grew from 31 million in 2000 to 65 million in 2020, the World Bank estimates that 250,000 new houses need to be built every year to meet existing shortages . In Pakistan, the government launched a housing programme in 2019 to provide five million housing units for poor and middle-income communities by 2030.
Scaling up high-efficiency common household appliances like brushless ceiling, or BLDC, fans can ensure comfort for millions of people. With ceiling fans among the fastest-selling appliances in the Asia-Pacific region, brushless fans require approximately 65% less energy than regular fans and help save around USD 20 per fan each year in household energy bills. This has been done before. India, for instance, has already seen the uptake of transformative energy-efficient technology at scale with nationwide bulk procurement and distribution of LED lightbulbs. Replicating the LED programme to create a viable market for other energy-efficient technologies like brushless fans also creates an opportunity for economic growth in the region.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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