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India’s Heat Action Plans (HAPs)

Why is it in the news?

  • Heat alerts from the IMD started in February, unusually early this year, with parts of the northeast and western India experiencing significantly warm temperatures.
  • The IMD forecasts an increase in maximum temperatures and heatwave frequency in the upcoming days, particularly in eastern and southern India, prompting concerns about India’s preparedness for this hazard.
  • This early onset of heat alerts and predictions of heightened heatwave conditions underscore the need for proactive measures to mitigate the impact of extreme heat on vulnerable populations and infrastructure.

About Heatwaves and HAPs

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines a heatwave based on maximum temperature thresholds, varying by region. In plains, it’s 40°C or more; in coastal areas, 37°C or more; and in hills, 30°C or more.
  • The severity of heatwaves is determined by the departure from normal temperature, with classifications like ‘normal heatwave’ and ‘severe heatwave’ based on departure levels.
  • HAPs are prepared by governments at various levels to mitigate heatwave impacts. They aim to prepare for, address, and recover from heatwaves through strategic measures.
  • Collaboration between the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and IMD with 23 states has led to the development of HAPs. These plans cover vulnerability assessments and response strategies.

Recommendations in HAPs

  • Utilization of forecasts and early warning systems to alert the public and authorities about impending heatwaves.
  • Public education campaigns to raise awareness about heatwave risks and preventive measures.
  • Establishment of heat shelters, cooling centres, and provision of clean drinking water to mitigate heat-related health risks.
  • Ensuring hospitals are well-equipped to handle a surge in patients with heat-related illnesses.
  • Promotion of long-term measures such as urban planning for heat resilience, adoption of cool roofing technologies, and integration of nature-based solutions.

Challenges in Addressing Heat Action Plans (HAPs) Effectively

Local Context Considerations:

  • Heatwaves need to be assessed at disaggregated levels such as states, districts, and cities to account for local variations.
  • Factors like urban heat island effect, roofing materials, and proximity to water bodies impact local temperatures and must be considered.
  • Development of a comprehensive heat index is necessary to include multiple factors beyond temperature.
  • Tailoring heat action plans (HAPs) to specific climatic conditions, demographics, and infrastructure of regions can enhance their effectiveness.

Inconsistent Methods in Vulnerability Assessments:

  • While vulnerability assessments are common in HAPs, methods are inconsistent across regions.
  • Transition to robust climate risk assessments is needed to identify heatwave likelihood and assess exposure of people and assets.
  • Hotspot mapping using geospatial data can prioritize interventions effectively based on vulnerability levels.

Addressing Vulnerable Populations:

  • HAPs prioritize protection for vulnerable groups but lack targeted interventions considering local socio-economic factors.
  • Formulation of strategies must acknowledge various socio-economic differences to effectively protect vulnerable communities.
  • Targeted measures are crucial for informal workers, recognizing their high exposure to heat-related risks.

Resource Allocation Challenges:

  • Implementation of HAPs varies based on local government priorities and available capacities, highlighting the need for dedicated budgets.
  • Dialogue between government, civil society, and worker unions is essential to develop financial mechanisms ensuring protection for informal workers during heatwaves without income loss.

Integration for Enhanced Effectiveness:

  • Integration of HAPs with broader urban resilience and climate adaptation plans can optimize resource pooling and enhance effectiveness.
  • Integrated plans can facilitate improvements in data collection and monitoring systems, vital for assessing HAP effectiveness over time.

Focus on Nature-Based Solutions:

  • Long-term measures in HAPs primarily focus on infrastructure development, with minimal attention to green and blue spaces.
  • Incorporating nature-based solutions in HAPs is essential to effectively address extreme heat in hotspots and enhance overall resilience to heatwaves.

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