Earth is home to some 7.4 billion people and right now the survival of earth is hotly debated, literally. First, each successive year’s temperature since 2014 shattered the previous year’s record as the hottest year. Now this has come down to months. January shattered all the monthly temperature records and February broke global temperature records and warned the world of an impending climate emergency.
On March 3, the temperatures of northern hemisphere marked history by being two degrees Celsius above the normal, reported Bill Mckibben of Boston Globe, last week. In December, the UN Climate Summit in Paris confirmed that two degrees Celsius as the danger line for global warming. Once upon a time, global warming was the anxiety of the generation not yet born. Today, it is becoming an everyday reality.
Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics told the Guardian, “We have used up all of our room for manoeuvre. If we delay any longer strong cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, it looks like global mean surface temperature is likely to exceed the level beyond which the impacts of climate change are likely to be very dangerous.”
Climate gods have unleashed their wrath upon human kind and Pettah is hit hard by the ever increasing temperature levels. Walking down Pettah streets is no mean feast. The sun god is at his mightiest, with piecing warm rays that fall down, and the humidity does not help. Warm streams of hot air are emitted from the roads, roofs and heated up concrete. It only takes minutes to get covered in sweat and the thirst is overwhelming. The exhaust fumes from the fleet of vehicles leave one gagging for fresh air. If the tree felling and burning fossil fuel continues at the current rate it is likely that stuff of science the likes of Day After Tomorrow will come to pass sooner than we think.
Global Warming ceased to be a western phenomenon long ago. The Pettah streets that usually resemble a bustling beehive of activity at this time of the year, with Sinhala and Hindu New Year just round the corner, has slowed down. To top off the record temperature levels, the power cuts and consequential halt in water supply for the past few days has made matters worse for vendors and shoppers. The voices of Pettah streets rang in unison over the subject.
Fruit vendors experienced no difference in their business due to excessive heat. “King coconut is what sells these days,” said one vendor. For fruit juice this is different. “It’s very hot these days so people come here to drink more juice. I have been here for a year now and these days are the hottest as far as I can remember,” said a vendor selling orange juice near the bus stand. At the three- wheel stand it was the same story. “We have been here for around 30 years. This is the worst heat we have experienced so far. Usually around 4 pm the temperature becomes milder. Now it is too warm even at 6 pm,” said one of the three-wheeler drivers. They also commented on the lower number of hires they get per day, although they attributed this to financial difficulties faced by the general public.
Dr.Abeysinghe from the medical faculty of University of Sri Jayewardenapura, commented that although the temperatures generally surge during this time of the year, this year they are higher than ever before. “It is warm during day as well as at night. You can’t blame this just on felling trees. We have the advantage of being surrounded by the sea. Even if there is a further increase in temperature, it would not result in death, like in other countries,” he opined.
Rajaratnam, a bookseller said, “From morning until around 7 pm I am here on these streets. I have been working in Pettah for 15 years and this is the worst heat so far. Whole day I am drinking water to hydrate myself. These days there is no water or electricity when I reach home sometimes. I tend to stay outside at these times.”
The worst affected are probably the traffic police officers. They have to do their duty whatever the weather. “Pettah is one of the warmest parts in Colombo and it’s getting warmer and warmer. If there were more trees, this would not have been so bad. This is a concrete city,” commented a police officer.
The higher temperature affects the business of roadside vendors. One vendor who has been in Pettah for over 30 years commented that due to the excessive heat this year, lower numbers of buyers come to the street markets of Pettah. Inside bigger shops the business goes on despite the heat. “It is around 1am when we close the shop and the heat is worst at night. Inside a fabric material shop the fans were on full throttle. But with their swirling of hot air, did not help to alleviate the heat. “We can’t use air conditioning due to the dust particles in the fabrics,” said Prakash, an employee of Kanco, a fabric shop in Pettah. They were confined to fans during the hottest period in 30 years. Nattamis of pettah are equally affected. “I have been working for 13 years. This is the hottest month so far, it is very difficult to work in this heat. At home fans are not enough,” said Boy, a nattami.
Walking down the street, one comes across a shocking spectacle. In the middle of a Pettah street, a city where power is cut to conserve energy and water supply is intermittent, a flood of flowed from an underground pipe, where it had burst. “This has been going on for more than 15 days now. We have informed all the authorities but they have not taken any measures to fix it. In the mean time water is flooding into our doorsteps with all the debris it has collected on the way,” commented neighbouring shop owners.