As the scorching heat wave sweeps the region, air conditioners in the City Beautiful are working full blast. And why not, for Chandigarh has the highest per capita availability of ACs in the country. As per the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2021, 77.9 per cent of city households have air conditioners at their homes. The city is followed by Delhi (74.3 %), Punjab (70.2%), and Haryana (61.8%).
According to the NFHS data, Meghalaya households have the lowest concentration of ACs with only 0.7 pc households owning one. It’s true of most other north-eastern states too due to the salubrious climate.
Experts attribute the excessive use of ACs in north India to the rising day and night temperatures. Last week, mercury breached 49 degrees Celsius near Gurugram. Chandigarh too is seeing a yearly spike in temperature in the months of May, June and July. This year, the city is seeing its warmest May in decades.
Another reason for the constant addition of ACs to households — many of its tony schools have air-conditioned classrooms — is the relatively lower consumption of electricity as new-age ACs become more power-efficient. Harmandeep, an AC dealer, says the power consumption of a five-star AC is comparable with that of a cooler. “But the absence of certain features such as an inbuilt inverter in the split AC can make it a power guzzler,” he warns.
However, the excessive use of ACs is a cause for concern as the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) emitted by them produce pollutants that cause ozone holes. Paveela Bali, an environmentalist, is concerned about the future of UT’s environment. “It’s time to come up with environment-friendly ACs or substitutes to fight the hot wave.”
Ohers are worried about the spiralling electricity bills. As Sudesh Sood, a retired civil servant, who blames the high concentration of ACs on the higher disposable income of Chandigarhians and a buy now-pay later mindset, says it’s important to go with more eco-friendly measures such as a coat of ‘choona’ on the rooftops to bring down the heat by a few degrees. “Surround yourself by plants grown in earthen pots and you will notice the difference.’’
Architects call for following the Corbusier principle of allowing a flow of air to keep the heat at bay.