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Record heat waves in Asia affirm need for sport to address climate change
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Cambodia 2023
As cities in Southeast Asia and Asia record soaring temperatures this month, the heat is on to tackle climate change.

Siti Zubaidah admits it’s been a really challenging Ramadan this year, as Muslims in Malaysia, and worldwide, fast ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which will be held on 21/22 April.

The clerk with a local bank, based in Kuala Lumpur, breaks her fast with at least three glasses of water, before consuming food, and continues drinking fluids before she starts fasting the next day.

The hot, humid, and hazy conditions in Kuala Lumpur and several parts of the region have taken a toll on almost everyone. Even air-conditioned rooms provide little comfort.

It was reported that the world is witnessing the worst April heat wave in Asia’s history. Pakistan has seen temperatures soar to 44 degrees Celcius, with high temperatures also seen in India (43.5 degrees Celcius), Myanmar (43.3 degrees Celcius), and Bangladesh (41.7 degrees Celcius).

Last week, the temperature in Tak – a province in Thailand – rose to 45.4 degrees Celcius. That set a new national heat record. Experts warned the worst has yet to come, with the El Nino weather phenomenon that will result in hotter and drier weather across Thailand in the coming months.

More people are calling for drastic action, as climate change continues to disrupt the production of crops and affect water sources.

Sport has always been labelled as “entertainment”, and often take a back seat in the region. But judging by current developments, now is the best time for sports administrators to use sports to tackle climate change.

There are those who say that sport itself is a contributor to global warming. This is due to the clearing of land and emissions, mainly through overdevelopment, especially when it comes to the hosting of a major competition, or multisport events.

But others insist that sport can play a role, by setting an example, using sustainable and environmental-friendly practices, and banking on the influence of athletes to get conversations about climate change going.

While this may look pretty on paper, such moves simply boil down to the will to make changes.

The upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, scheduled from 5-17 May in Cambodia, could turn out to be the hottest regional event. Cambodian authorities 

have warned of hot weather throughout April and May, with temperatures going up to 39 degrees Celsius. And there’s also the haze. 

However, the organisers of the Games can quickly use it as a platform to voice their concerns about global warming, and get the athletes involved.

What is equally important is for the member states to continue the conversations in their home nations, even after the SEA Games end. 

If all this is just ‘blowing hot air’ during the event, the exercise will be nothing more than ticking off an item on the bucket list. Bad practices will remain, and temperatures will continue to soar, impacting the athletes’ performances, their wellbeing, and that of the general population.

Main image: Cambodia 2023

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About the author

Haresh Deol is a multi-award winning journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is also the co-founder and editor of Kuala Lumpur-based news organisation, Twentytwo13. Haresh is currently a sportanddev consultant.

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Sustainable Development Goals
13 - Climate action
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