In a moving display, Greenpeace India’s Museum of Memories brings to life real human stories amidst India’s unrelenting heat waves. Over 50 objects and art installations narrate powerful tales of devastation, resilience, and hope in the face of the heatwave crisis. The ongoing exhibit at the Triveni Kala Sangam, showcases items collected from families across the country severely impacted by heat waves and other extreme weather events.Greenpeace India uses this exhibit to call for immediate governmental action to address the heatwave crisis by declaring heatwaves as a notified national disaster.
“A lot of climate conversations revolve around data and statistics. While these numbers are important for assessing the climate crisis, those behind these numbers are real people with aspirations, lives, and loved ones. The Museum of Memories is a reminder that the heatwave crisis is a humanitarian crisis,” says Amruta SN, Campaigner, Greenpeace India. Recent media reports highlight people suffering and dying due to the heat, emphasising that these are not freak incidents but symptoms of a larger climate crisis.
Between 1992 and 2015, 24,223 citizens of India lost their lives due to heatwaves. Despite the fatalities, heatwaves have not garnered proportionate public attention. The approach of both Central and State governments has been reactionary, with limited focus on risk reduction. Heatwaves are not recognized as a national disaster, limiting state governments to allocate only 10 percent of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for relief, mitigation, and adaptation measures.
“The government doesn’t acknowledge heatwaves as a disaster. It lacks a systemic response, even on paper. Ignoring a phenomenon that is set to visit us annually and intensify is callous,” says Nitin Sethi, founder-editor of The Reporters’ Collective.
Among the items on display is a bright yellow and blue toy truck belonging to a young boy named Bittu from Manjhave, Jharkhand. Bittu collapsed and passed away due to the heat in April 2023 while on his way to a family gathering. India experienced one of its harshest summers last year, with over 60 percent of the country reporting temperatures above normal.
“The heat is intense. Many women are unable to work and earn money, falling sick due to the heat. We need measures, especially for the informal sector, particularly women. Heat must be declared a national disaster,” says independent journalist Bhumika Saraswati. Her photo stories on the impact of heatwaves on women working outdoors are also part of the exhibit.
The exhibit will be on display till June 22 at the Triveni Kala Sangam in Delhi. As part of the People for Climate campaign, Greenpeace India will release a report on June 14th documenting the heatwave experiences of street vendors in Delhi.