ReportNew Delhi, northern India and Pakistan have been crushed since March by an exceptional heat wave. The Indian capital recorded an all-time high of 49.2°C.
The men are lying under a banyan tree, the only place protected from the sun. It is 10:30 am, and the thermometer already shows 41 ° C in Delhi, Thursday, May 19. They have just spent four hours in the fields picking vegetables on the banks of the Yamuna, the river that runs alongside the Indian capital. The carts are overflowing with cucumbers, lady fingers, bitter gourds and other cabbage or zucchini that they will sell in the neighborhoods of Delhi.
Migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, they are settled with their families on land that has not belonged to them for thirty or forty years. The banks of the Yamuna, floodplains, are thus home to 9,300 families of peasants and horticulturists, more than 46,700 people who live in extreme destitution, in bamboo huts, without electricity, without access to drinking water. , without paved road, in the middle of a no man’s land, crossed by high voltage lines, the pillars of metro bridges or road interchanges. A kind of underworld, almost invisible.
The Delhi government distributes drinking water to them by tank truck. That drawn from the ground, of a yellow color, is loaded with heavy metals and other pollutants; it’s only good for washing clothes and… watering vegetables.
The heat wave that has hit northern India since March 11 has damaged their production; they normally earn, in good months, 8,000 rupees (98 euros). Men, women, children suffer from stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, but they do not complain, almost surprised that they are asked about the heat wave. “It is much warmer this year. But that doesn’t change anything for us. We have nowhere else to go. In the village, there is no work”explains a farmer.
The huts have no window, just a central opening. The straw roof is covered with a plastic sheet. It’s an indoor oven and there’s no electricity to run a fan.
A woman returns from her plot, carrying on her head a heavy basin filled with vegetables that she is going to sell. Guna Devi earns 200 rupees a day (2.40 euros). She sublets her plot. If she does not sell the same day, she gives her products to the cows. In one day, under the heat, they rot.
Sunday, May 15, the Indian capital of more than 20 million inhabitants recorded a historic record of 49.2 ° C, in the stations of poor neighborhoods, where there are few trees and very dense urbanism. An unbearable furnace suffered by the population in unsuitable habitats. Elsewhere in the megalopolis, it was 46.7°C. For two months, the air has been hot, dry and dusty. At night, the thermometer no longer drops below 31°C.
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