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In Delhi's Safeda Basti, daily struggle in heatwave 'beyond one can imagine'

By Nimisha Agarwal* 

In Delhi, while the richer areas enjoy cool air from air conditioners, the people of Safeda Basti face the brutal heat of summer with very little to help them. This neighborhood is filled with hardworking laborers, street vendors, hard working women and others who are vital to the city’s economy but often overlooked. In India, approximately 461 million people reside in urban areas, with about 17 percent living in crowded, informal settlements. These areas, plagued by rapid urbanization and inadequate infrastructure, feature self-constructed homes using various traditional building methods.
During the summer, temperatures often go above 40 degrees Celsius. This kind of heat is dangerous and has become more severe every year since the 1990s. For those living in Safeda Basti, the rising temperatures are not just uncomfortable—they are a serious threat.
Picture this, a local resident, after hard labour, too tired from the heat, sleeps on a roadside cart with a makeshift net to escape the sun, breaks your heart right?. This isn’t just a way to rest; it shows the severe lack of proper homes that can offer some escape from the heat. This is because houses here are made from materials like tin and asbestos, which heat up quickly and don’t keep the inside cool.
These harsh conditions can cause serious health problems. People can get dehydrated, have heat strokes, or face heart issues because of the constant heat. It’s especially tough for older people, young kids, and pregnant women. Children often suffer from heat rashes and dehydration, and pregnant women face significant health risks due to the heat.
The situation with homes in Safeda Basti makes everything worse. The houses are small, crowded, and badly need better ventilation. On top of this, power cuts are frequent, especially when it’s very hot, leaving families without even a fan to help them cool down. Water is also a big problem. People have to wait in long lines to get water from trucks, and there’s never enough to go around.
In Safeda Basti, the daily struggle in the heatwave is beyond what most can imagine. As temperatures soar in Delhi, residents have to gather around a municipal water tanker, their vital source of drinking water. The scorching heat has pushed the demand for water to unprecedented levels, creating a crisis situation every single day. They even have to carry heavy water containers on their shoulders. This intense heat doesn't just cause discomfort; it silently triggers conditions like diabetes, making dehydration a dangerous, yet often overlooked threat.
Scorching heat has pushed the demand for water to unprecedented levels, creating a crisis situation
Another problem that they face is lack of proper sanitation and water facilities. Residents of Safeda Basti bathe in the open, as most homes in the area don't have proper facilities.
Families living in slums face harsh conditions, crowded into inadequate housing with limited public spaces and under the looming threat of eviction. These environments are breeding grounds for diseases and expose residents to environmental hazards such as toxic chemicals and pollution in the air, water, and soil.
Children in these areas face unsafe infrastructure and heavy traffic, and are at risk of exploitative labor, trafficking, and exposure to violence and criminal activities, all of which jeopardize their safety.
Sanjith Sahani, Tara Devi, and their family moved here from Bihar, hoping for a better life. But during the heatwave months, their home gets so hot that they have to sleep on the streets. Muni Devi, who works in a factory and is a mother of ten, doesn’t know much about why it’s getting hotter each year, but she feels the heat affects all and her family suffers too.
In places like Safeda Basti, clean water, good toilets, and safe living conditions should be normal but aren’t. These hard working people deserve to live in a place where they can be safe and healthy, but the people here are far from having these basic needs met.
This situation calls for immediate action. The people in Safeda Basti and other similar areas need better homes that stay cool, steady electricity, and enough clean water. It’s important for organizations and leaders to make sure that as the city grows, it includes and helps its most vulnerable residents.
As we face more heat due to climate change, let’s not forget about communities like Safeda Basti. They need more than just the strength to survive; they need real support to live safely and with dignity. Let’s make sure everyone in Delhi can face the summer not just by getting by, but by being truly okay.
*PR Executive, Wing Communications, on behalf of SEEDS



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