Developing Framework for Heat Wave Mitigation in India

Heat Wave Mitigation in India

Intense heat waves are becoming more frequent and severe across India, posing significant threats to public health, electricity grid reliability, and agricultural yields. With the recognition that these heat risks are linked to climate change, government leaders are taking proactive steps to improve preparedness and response strategies. One key approach is the strengthening of national heat preparedness efforts and the implementation of city-level Heat Action Plans (HAPs).

Ahmedabad, a city in India, has successfully implemented a heat action plan that has proven to be lifesaving. Drawing lessons from this success, authorities across the country are now focusing on improving extreme heat warning systems and emergency response planning. This momentum is encouraging, but local experts have identified a crucial need to integrate and tailor landcover heat solutions into heat action plans.

Recognizing this need, India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) recently organized a brainstorming workshop on “Developing Framework for Heat Wave Mitigation.” The workshop aimed to advance the national dialogue on long-term heat response measures in India’s rapidly growing cities. The event brought together leading heat experts from government, academia, and civil society to offer insights on translating best practices into concrete actions on the ground.

One of the key takeaways from the workshop was the importance of integrating landcover heat solutions into heat action plans. Landcover refers to the physical characteristics of the land, such as vegetation cover, impervious surfaces, and water bodies. These factors play a crucial role in influencing local temperatures and can be effectively utilized to mitigate the impacts of heat waves.

By strategically planning and implementing landcover modifications, cities can create cooler microclimates and reduce the intensity of heat waves. Increasing green spaces, such as parks and urban forests, can provide shade and cooling effects. Additionally, promoting the use of reflective materials for buildings and roads can minimize heat absorption. These measures not only help to alleviate the immediate impacts of heat waves but also contribute to long-term climate resilience.

The workshop also emphasized the need for tailored solutions that address the unique characteristics and challenges of each city. While general guidelines and best practices are valuable, it is essential to consider the specific context of each location. Factors such as population density, urbanization patterns, and existing infrastructure play a significant role in determining the effectiveness of heat mitigation strategies.

Furthermore, the workshop highlighted the importance of collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders. Effective heat wave mitigation requires the involvement of government agencies, urban planners, researchers, and community organizations. By working together, these stakeholders can pool their expertise and resources to develop comprehensive and sustainable heat action plans.

As India continues to experience the impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe heat waves, it is crucial to prioritize heat wave mitigation efforts. The workshop organized by the NDMA is a positive step towards developing a framework for long-term heat response measures. By integrating landcover heat solutions into heat action plans and tailoring strategies to each city’s unique context, India can enhance its preparedness and resilience in the face of extreme heat events.

Experts Highlight Heat Risks and Policy Opportunities

During the workshop, Mr. Kamal Kishore of NDMA emphasized the importance of long-term heat response planning while considering the need to prepare for India’s upcoming 2024 heat season. He pointed out the high number of deaths that occurred last year due to heat in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and the need for better communication between inter-departmental agencies. Mr. Kishore also stressed the need for a multi-sectoral approach, which is crucial for reducing morbidity. Shri Kunal Sathyarthi of NDMA highlighted that the main objective of heat planning is to achieve zero heat-related deaths. To achieve this goal, focused attention needs to be given to the upcoming heat season by engaging in advance with heat-prone districts.

The experience of heat in India varies from year to year, and Dr. Naresh Kumar from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has highlighted the differences in the spatial pattern of heatwaves in 2022 and 2023. He has attributed the higher heat mortality in 2023 to the delayed onset of the monsoon season. Dr. Kumar also mentioned that most climate models are predicting heatwaves in advance and that it is crucial for state agencies to make use of these forecasts for advance planning. However, a key challenge remains in disseminating and translating heat forecasts into actionable health recommendations for the public.

Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), emphasized that due to climate change, heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. He suggested that a national heat management framework should be developed to address high-risk areas based on the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) maps of regional hotspots. Dr. Koll also pointed out the importance of considering the rising nighttime temperatures, which can hinder recovery and lead to further health issues.

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