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Understanding recurring heatwaves: risk, impact and way forward for resilience

By IMPRI Team 

The three-day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Understanding Recurring Heatwaves: Risk, Impact and the Way Forward for Resilience” is a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, and Centre for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi commenced on 26th July 2022.
Inaugurating the session, Dr Souravie Ghimiray welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panellists.
Day 1 of the program included distinguished speakers such as Shri Taj Hassan, IPS, Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi as the patron for the session; Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as Convenor and Moderator; and Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi; Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI; Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Associate Professor, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI, New Delhi as our Convenors.
The expert trainers for the programme included Dr Pooja Paswan, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Himanshu Shekhar Mishra, Senior Editor (Political and Current Affairs), New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV India); Dr Naresh Kumar, Scientist E, National Weather Forecasting Centre, India Meteorological Department (IMD); Dr Gulrez Shah Azhar, Independent Researcher (Former Researcher, University of Washington & RAND Corporation, USA);
Prof Joyashree Roy, Bangabandhu Chair Professor and Director, Centre on South and South East Asia Multidisciplinary Applied Research Network on Transforming Societies of Global South, AIT School of Environment, Resources and Development, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand; Dr Manu Gupta, Co-Founder, SEEDS; Dr May Mathew, Founder Trustee and Chief Planner, Centre for Environmental Efficiency, Kochi; Anup Kumar Srivastava, Sr. Consultant – Drought and Heatwave (Policy & Plan Division), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Commencing the program, the convenor for the session, Prof Anil K Gupta, made his opening remarks about the reasons for the recurring heatwaves of late. He mentioned that it is vital to analyse the impact of exposure to these heatwaves and look at the remodelling of development to reduce the effect of heatwave incidences.
Mr Tikender Singh set up the stage by sharing an anecdote with us, talking about how different areas in Delhi itself differ in temperature, something he experienced while cycling across the city. He brought up the point that the problem arises as heat waves become a class issue since most of our population works in the informal sector, which is often outdoors.
Mr Himanshu Shekhar Mishra, Senior Editor (Political and Current Affairs), New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV India):
Mr Himanshu Shekhar Mishra started by presenting “Rising Threat of Heat Waves in India”, also talking about Global Warming and the challenges ahead. He covered the criteria for heatwaves, mentioning that India is at risk in the months of April-June with a high chance of occurrence over most of the country. Heat waves have a significant impact on human health. Excessive exposure leads to dehydration, cramps, exhaustion and heatstroke. Alcohol and its fermentation can lead to poisoning. There has also been a rise in the number of instances of anxiety, palpitations, and behavioural change linked to extreme temperature rise.
The worst affected segments include- agricultural labourers, coastal community dwellers, and people living below the poverty level. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has introduced a Heat Action Plan to mitigate the problems at hand. It is a comprehensive early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events. IMD, in collaboration with local health departments, implements the Heat Action Plan in many parts of the country to warn about the heat waves. Mr Mishra shared a Ground Report that he and his team shot in April 2022, on how the Heat Wave had impacted Wheat Crops in Ghaziabad and surrounding areas.
He then spoke about the steps taken by the Government to tackle Climate Change Impact on Agriculture. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) is one of the Missions within the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The mission aims to evolve and implement strategies to make Indian agriculture more resilient to the changing climate. The Union Agriculture Minister, Narendra Singh Tomar, announced that to sustain domestic food production in the face of changing climate, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has launched a flagship network project called “National Innovation in Climate Resilient Agriculture” (NICRA).
This project aims to develop and promote climate disaster resilient technologies that help regions prone to extreme weather conditions like droughts, floods and heat waves to cope with such weather incidents. To address the adverse effect of natural risks on crops, the Department of Agriculture ensures comprehensive risk cover to farmers against all non-preventable natural risks (including heatwaves) from pre-sowing to post-harvest stage under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
Dr Naresh Kumar, Scientist E, National Weather Forecasting Centre, India Meteorological Department (IMD):
Dr Naresh spoke of the Role of IMD in heatwave management in India. He began by explaining this year’s scientific and geographic reasons for heat waves. Talking about the work done by IMD, he mentioned that IMD has been responsible for issuing warnings at meteorological subdivision levels to different users such as MHA, NDMA, SDMA and transport authorities through email, WhatsApp, and social media channels, press releases etc.
IMD has created interactive maps for monitoring and forecasting information using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). In addition to that, they also have a dedicated page for Heat Wave Guidance on their website that the public can use to create Heat Action Plans. Furthermore, IMD has done the Heat Hazard Analysis of the entire country as another significant initiative.

DAY 2

Day 2 of the programme included eminent panelists Dr Gulrez Shah Azhar, an independent Researcher and former researcher at the University of Washington, and Professor Jayashree Roy who is the Bangabandhu Chair Professor at the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, she is also a Professor of Economics at Jadhavpur University Kolkata and Mr Anup Kumar Srivastava, Senior Consultant – Drought and Heat Wave Policy and Planning Division, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
The session commenced with Dr Souravie Ghimiray, IMPRI, welcoming all the speakers and participants to the programme with an introduction to the course and the esteemed panelists.
Dr Gulrez Shah Azhar: Independent researcher and former researcher at the University of Washington:
Dr Azhar presented his work “Indian summer: three essays on Heatwave, vulnerability, estimation and adaptation”, which emphasized the need to study heat waves, and compared and analysed the implication of heatwaves now and in the future with a focus on India.
In his talk, he discussed vulnerability assessment, understanding vulnerability domains, the need to protect the vulnerable section of the society, since they are the worst affected due to heatwaves and identifying the most heat-vulnerable districts of the country. Dr Gulrez in his presentation discussed mortality estimation in India and estimated the direct economic costs associated with these deaths. He has highlighted the fact that in India, people in the economically productive older age group are more susceptible to death due to heat and as per projections, nearly 84000 deaths are estimated by the end of the century.
Steps to mitigate heat at the individual, community and federal levels were a significant area of discussion. Dr Gulrez states the predicament of heat waves as a “massive and complex challenge” and adaptation to the system requires a combination of strategies, as steps to be taken in the long run, he suggests to reduce human and economic impact bottom-up ethnographic research to be used.
Prof Joyashree Roy: Bangabandhu Chair Professor at Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, Professor of Economics at Jadhavpur University, Kolkata; National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Services Research:
Professor Joyashree presented her work “Heat Stress, Exacerbating health risks in India: Rethinking Approach to Health Service Provision”.
Prof Roy’s work majorly focused on accelerating climate action-key to a sustainable environment and discussed the impacts and risks for selected natural, managed and human systems. She stated how health-related indicators are one of the prominent reasons which hold back India’s goal of sustainable development. According to her research, climate change will make the present situation of health worse due to the lack of preventive approaches in the health sector. She discusses the potential health impacts such as increased mortality rates, allergic diseases, the rampant spread of infectious diseases, an increase in the number of undernourished people in low-income countries and the spread of waterborne diseases.
Prof Roy suggests that the impact of heat stress varies depending on the adaptive capacity and occupational pattern of the people. As a policy plan, she suggests that shades are provided to outdoor workers and air-conditioned spaces in order to achieve 100% workability zones in India. In her presentation, she mentions bringing adaptation, mitigation and sustainability together is a major concern. She highlights the need to give attention to National Preventive Head Care Mission, essential to ensure sustainable development in India. Professor Roy emphasises having an integrated and solution-centric approach in order to achieve sustainable development and to have a combination of preventive health care and cure system to face heat waves and climate-related issues.
Anup Kumar Srivastava: Senior consultant – Drought and Heat Wave Policy and Planning Division- National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA):
Mr Anup Kumar presented his work “Understanding Heat Waves: Risk, Impacts and the Resilience”.
He discussed the impact of heat waves which have caused nearly 25,696 deaths between the years 1992 and 2021, not just humans, the negative effects of heat waves can be observed even in animals, wildlife, water, agriculture, labour and employment. Heat waves have caused a significant impact even on economic activities. Mr Anup Kumar has stated that the lack of an institutional mechanism to heat wave management and the lack of accurate information and data related to the heat wave as major challenges in countering the issue. He projects the need to have a changed policy in India, from relief centric to prevention and preparedness centric.
He gave an elaborative analysis of NDMA’s action on the Heat waves and a detailed talk on warning systems using colour coding. Mr Srivastava has suggested integrating climate variability, mitigation and adaptation efforts in the Heat Action Plan and strengthening an early warning system as a long-term measure, the usage of cool roofs as a mechanism to reduce heat exposure is a viable option suggested. He also addressed the need of mainstreaming heatwave management and capacity building amongst people and the significance of local-level awareness campaigns in his presentation.

DAY 3

Day 3 of the program included an insightful and enriching discussion delivered by eminent panelists, Dr May Matthew, Founder Trustee, and Chief Planner at the Centre for Environmental Efficiency, Kochi, Dr Manu Gupta, Co-Founder of SEEDS, and Dr Pooja Paswan, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
The session was opened with introductory and welcoming remarks from Dr Souravie Ghimiray, IMPRI.
Dr May Matthew, Founder Trustee, and Chief Planner at the Centre for Environmental Efficiency, Kochi, opened the session with a brief but well articulate presentation on “New Normalization: India to Become a Role-Model Country— Strengths and Strategies”. Talking about the emission of carbon footprints from the 1960s till the present day, she, through data, mentions that from the 60s till the 80s, Earth’s regenerative capacity was comparatively higher than from the 80s, which is when Earth’s capacity to regenerate Carbon emissions left by Humanity began to decline, the visual effects of excessive atmospheric heating and Climate Change began to show.
However, the onset of the ‘New Normal’ brings hope to an end to the downward spiral of Climate Change. She explains the trajectory to reinstate Earth’s regenerative capacity and get progress, can be done through switching to a Circular Economy from the existing Linear Economy. She goes on to explain the correlation of Human Development and Ecological footprint through data and her own conceptual theories “EE and CC environmental deficiency and Capacity theories” to measure effective growth as high HD rate but low EFP, unlike the reverse seen before, which can be attained by India in the near future.
Furthermore, Dr Matthew highlights potential recommendations on education, health, and urban planning to substantiate her presentation. She finally, ends her presentation by suggesting the way of a circular economy, where developed countries pair with underdeveloped countries in a mutually beneficial partnership and the former provides the latter with HD provisions like sanitization, education, provisions of income, and health while it takes their bio capacity and moves towards being green zone countries. Therefore, the future urban sustainable earth scenario will depict a circular correlation between ecological footprint and HD mapping. She further reinstates the potential India has to launch this model with its states.
Dr Manu Gupta straight away delved into the Topic of the program, heat waves through perspectives from his Organizations work, which eventually forms the structure of his presentation. He highlighted the effect of climate change in the form of heat waves in the country, and the disproportionate effect of it on communities across the country, with economically weaker sections bearing the toughest brunt.
The issue of climate vulnerability in almost 225 out of 728 districts is an alarming concern, adding to the increase in rapid urbanization in cities as slums, mostly for the informal sector, highlights the issue of affordability and its close relation with negligible protection with climate-related risks. He further states the importance of collaboration of academics and policymakers to tackle this issue and further presents an achievement of SEEDS in creating housing models with effective cooling solutions (bringing down indoor temperatures by 6 degrees) to tackle the issue of rapid heating in slums.
He ends with a call of action to future planners, architects, and solution makers to briefly consider this issue and come up with innovative but sustainable solutions that can effectively lead to India’s sustainable growth.
Dr Pooja Paswan opens by centring her presentation on directives for designing a socio-environmental policy in a developing country like India, which, according to her, has confused urbanization with development and draws on the necessity of identifying development with effective resilience to natural and man-made calamities, rather than the building of malls and roads in rural areas, access to resources that ensure one’s longevity in life, rather than its reduction. She states that as we rapidly urbanize, we slowly lose touch with what development truly identifies (to enhance the quality of life) and we bask in the effects of urbanization in forms of air pollution and climate risks like the ongoing heat waves.
To pivot to prioritizing quality of life over urbanization, she moves on to her presentation, a set of logical but effective directives in creating socio-environmental policies in India. She further emphasizes the need for policies that are sustainable and cater to the needs of all communities, but at the same time require support from the entire community to ensure its success. When it comes to policies tackling climate risks, the collective consciousness of communities is extremely important when tackling the issues.
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Acknowledgement: Tripta Behera, Research intern at IMPRI; Ishina Das, Research intern at IMPRI, Aparna Pillai, Research intern at IMPRI

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