Too hot to handle

Half of Nepal is drenched with monsoon rains, the western half is suffering a lethal heat wave


Indra Bahadur Rana Magar, 29, boarded a bus with his parents on 30 May from Bardia to Rampur in the western Tarai.

During the uncomfortably hot ride, Indra Bahadur sweated profusely. At the village of Hasulia, he could not take the heat anymore and got off and rested under the shade of a tree. He never woke up. 

“He died in his sleep,” recalled police inspector Lokendra Chand, who is certain Indra Bahadur died of heat stroke

Earlier this week, Balram Magrati ,53, of Dhangadi suddenly fainted while working in an outdoor food stall. He was rushed to Seti Provincial Hospital, where he died.

“Cases of people fainting and having breathing difficulties due to excessive heat are now common,” says Sher Bahadur Kamar, a physician at the hospital.

Heat wave western Nepal

The monsoon rains arrived in eastern Nepal on 10 June, bringing down the temperature, but unleashed floods and landslides. The monsoon was advancing across Nepal, but has stalled because of a resurgent westerly, and this means more delays in cooling rains coming to the sweltering western Tarai.

Dhangadi and neighbouring parts of India have seen the maximum lingering at 45°C for weeks on end. Earlier, such high temperatures would only last a few days.

“For the first time since 1996, we have also recorded the highest temperature. It was 44.1°C on 30 May, the minimum that day was 30.2°C,” explains Singal Chaudhary of the Mahakali Basin Field Office in Attaria. The office has since recorded near 44°C for days on end.

As the monsoon approaches, increased humidity is making conditions worse. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, and locals say they cannot live indoors either because of their corrugated tin roofs. The electricity also is off and on because of increased demand.

On Thursday, Sethia Dagaura, 85, was in Dhangadi inside her neighbour’s house which is under construction. This has been her refuge for more than a month. “My house has a tin roof and it is too hot to live there, so I moved here,” she explains, fanning herself with cardboard. But even that blows on hot air.

“It should be raining by now, maybe god is telling me this is the end,” she says. 

Heat wave western Nepal

The heat in northern India has ignited forest fires in Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, and also in the mountains to the north of here. But it has also dried the soil moisture and crops. The ground water table is also going down and wells are drying up.

“Five out of seven taps in our village do not have water anymore, we go to the neighbour’s tap for drinking water,” says Rajkumar Choudhary, who lives on the outskirts of Dhangadi.

Schools in Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur have been closed for three weeks due to the heat. Just as they were supposed to reopen, the closure has been extended at least until 25 June.

According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the heat wave may continue for a week more because of the westerlies blocking the monsoon’s progress.

Until then, physician Kamar at Seti Provincial Hospital suggests staying in a cool place to avoid heat, drinking plenty of water and fluids, wearing light clothes and not going out in the afternoon sun.