With temperatures set to continue rising into the foreseeable future, owing to anthropogenic climate change, deadly heat waves are going to become more and more common. Regions containing relatively poor populations are especially vulnerable, as demonstrated by the recent heat wave in India that killed many thousands of people in vulnerable communities.
With heat waves such as this in mind, India recently revealed a new set of heat wave action plans in the Nagpur region of Maharashtra and the Bhubaneswar coastal region of Odisha -- ones intended to provide early warning to residents, as well as to coordinate the opening of "cooling centers," amongst other things.
The new heat wave action plans were created cooperatively by a collection of state + national leaders, meteorological officials, public health bodies, various international advisors, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“India is showing the world that, as we work together to fight climate change, we can take smart steps right now to shield millions of people from killer heat waves. These groundbreaking heat action plans also demonstrate that it’s clearly feasible and cost-effective to create similar heat preparedness plans across Indian cities and states,” stated Anjali Jaiswal, the India Initiative Director at NRDC.
The new plans were based the municipal-level heat action plan launched in Ahmedabad back in 2013.
“The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan is a necessary step towards protecting our communities from extreme heat and a beautiful model for future climate adaptation efforts,” stated Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner D Thara.
“Ahmedabad’s innovative model for preparing vulnerable populations for rising temperatures, such as school children, the elderly, the poor and outdoor laborers, has been incredibly effective,” stated Dr Dileep Mavalankar, Director of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, one of the coalition of partners who first developed the Ahmedabad heat action plan. “During the devastating 2015 heat wave that left 2,300 dead across the country, fewer than 20 heat-related deaths were reported in Ahmedabad. That is impressive in a city that is home to over 7 million people.”
The Nagpur regional plan that will launch this month is the first regional approach to heat wave planning and coordinates five neighboring cities’ plans. The Odisha regional plan will strengthen the integration of heat preparedness and a heat early warning system into its robust state-wide disaster management system.
...The Government of India is also actively supporting broader heat resilience efforts. The national Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has adapted how it forecasts temperatures and heat wave conditions, in addition to strengthening inter-agency communication. IMD now provides a 5-day forecast to more than 100 cities around India to increase cities’ capacity to warn citizens and respond to impending heat waves.
Dr Kamal Mishra, the Chief General Manager of the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority commented that: “These regional heat preparedness and disaster response activities together represent a growing movement to respond to climate threats with strong adaptation strategies that connect and empower vulnerable communities and ultimately save lives.”
More information on the new heat action plans can be found here.