Melting Futures: Greenpeace India’s dramatic Ice Sculpture activity symbolises heatwave disasters unfolding across India

Melting Futures: Greenpeace India's dramatic Ice Sculpture activity symbolises heatwave disasters unfolding across India

New Delhi – On May 19, Greenpeace India unveiled a stunning ice sculpture at the Select City Mall, Saket, that melted under the hot Delhi sun, sending out a strong message on the impact of heatwaves across the country. The 8ft tall ice sculpture, depicting a woman with a child and a dog, was representative of some of the most marginalised communities vulnerable to heatwaves and other extreme weather phenomena. Onlookers witnessed the melting of the ice sculpture that came with a message – Act Before We Melt Away. Through this activity, Greenpeace India is demanding that the National Disaster Management Authority declare heatwaves as a notified national disaster, allowing it adequate funding and policies that can help build resilience of the communities in the face of the crisis.

‘This sculpture has been designed keeping in mind the impact that heatwaves have on especially vulnerable groups like women and children. Some of us might be more shielded from the heat because we have access to cooling solutions. However with the situation only worsening, even those relatively more privileged and protected are going to feel the impacts of heatwaves. The ice figures are manually sculpted and designed to melt in a manner that represents the degree of vulnerability. The smaller figures of child and the puppy dog melted sooner, while the figure of the woman melted last. We hope that through this ice sculpture we are able to make a case for heatwaves to be recognised as a national disaster’ said Siddhesh Gaikwad, Greenpeace India

Data shows that in the period between 1992 and 2015, 24,223 citizens in India lost their lives due to heatwaves. And several studies, including a 2023 report by the IPCC has projected that these climate trends will only escalate, exacerbating the frequency and duration of heatwaves. Climate change-induced heat waves not only pose significant health risks but also disrupt societal structures, jeopardise safety, hamper productivity, and impede economic growth.

‘The ice sculpture of this family melting into water in Delhi’s scorching heat is a warning bell of the escalating climate crisis, driven by the fossil fuel industry. Heatwaves in the country have more than doubled in the past three decades, with 2022 alone recording over 20 events. While we are demanding effective mitigation and adaptation measures, we also need an overhaul of our energy systems that are exacerbating climate change and extreme weather events. Fossil fuel companies, particularly international oil corporations, are major contributors to this, with the top 20 companies responsible for 35% of global carbon emissions since 1965’ said Amruta S.N., Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India

49% of India’s workforce comprises outdoor workers, and these workers face drastically heightened risks during heatwaves, as highlighted by the National Disaster Management Authority’s report. There is also an emerging body of evidence that challenges the common assumption that men bear the brunt of heat waves due to their outdoor labour. Women not only engage in outdoor work such as street vending, waste picking, or brick-kiln labour but are also almost exclusively susceptible as home-based workers. The HomeNet report reveals that the heat leads to an increase of over two hours per day in caregiving and household chores for women, further encroaching on their work time.

The Ice Sculpture activity is part of Greenpeace India’s Climate Justice campaign, People for Climate. Over the next few weeks, the organisation with its partners will be hosting a Museum of Memories, with real objects that tell stories of devastation, resilience and hope in the face of the heatwave crisis. Through these activities Greenpeace India hopes to shed light on the urgency of the heatwave crisis, and the need to declare it as a national disaster, making way for stringer policies and better funding for climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

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Neel Achary is the editor of Business News This Week. He has been covering all the business stories, economy, and corporate stories.