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‘Unliveable’: Delhi’s residents struggle to cope in record-breaking heat

Temperatures of more than 45C have left population of 29 million exhausted – but the poorest suffer most

As the water tanker drove into a crowded Delhi neighbourhood, a ruckus erupted. Dozens of residents ran frantically behind it, brandishing buckets, bottles and hoses, and jumped on top of it to get even a drip of what was stored inside. Temperatures that day had soared to 49C (120F), the hottest day on record – and in many places across India’s vast capital, home to more than 29 million people, water had run out.

Every morning, Tripti, a social health worker who lives in the impoverished enclave of Vivekanand Camp, is among those who has to stand under the blazing sun with buckets and pots, waiting desperately for the water tanker to arrive.

“People have to wait for two to three hours in the queue for just for the couple of buckets of water,” she said. “The increasing temperature has made it worse. As the heat is increasing, we need more water but the supply is in fact decreasing. We are suffering badly and heat is making it impossible to live.”

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Delhi is no stranger to heat. Its summers always bring stiflingly hot temperatures and the rich confine themselves to their air-conditioned homes, while poor households gather beneath fans and cover themselves with wet rags.

The consensus among experts and residents is that the summer temperatures are now regularly rising far above the norm as India bears the brunt of the climate crisis. A heatwave has enveloped much of north India in May – this week temperatures consecutively rose above 45C…

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