[Answered] Critically assess the implementation of heat action plans in India, with a focus on their limitations and the inconsistencies in vulnerability assessments across different regions. Suggest measures for more effective planning and execution.

Introduction: Define heatwave.

Body: Highlight challenges in the implementation of HAPs and measures to improve them.

Conclusion: Way forward

As per the IMD, a heatwave is declared if temperatures hit 40°C or higher in the plains, 37°C or higher on the coast, and 30°C or higher in the hills. With heatwaves becoming more frequent and severe, governments at all levels have developed heat action plans (HAPs) to prepare for and mitigate their impact.

Limitations and Inconsistencies in Implementation

  • Vulnerable Population: While all HAPs prioritize safeguarding vulnerable populations like low-income communities, children, and the elderly, there’s a lack of tailored interventions considering local social and demographic factors. Over 90% of India’s economy is informal, evident in occupations like pushcart vendors, chaiwalas, household help, and sanitation workers.
  • Limited Finance: Successful implementation of HAP is further constrained due to priorities based on the preferences of local authorities and the resources at their disposal. HAPs are often underfunded, hindering public awareness campaigns, the establishment of cooling centers, and infrastructure upgrades.
  • Lack of Local Context: Most plans rely on national heatwave thresholds, neglecting regional variations in vulnerability. Dry heat isn’t the only concern – plans often miss threats from humid heat and warm nights.
  • Flawed Vulnerability Assessments: Many HAPs poorly identify vulnerable populations like outdoor workers, the elderly, and those in informal settlements. This leads to inadequate targeted interventions.

Measures for more effective planning and execution

  • Localized Definitions: Develop localized definitions of heatwaves, accounting for factors such as urban heat islands, humidity levels, and community vulnerability. This ensures that thresholds are tailored to the specific climate and demographic characteristics of each region.
  • Standardized Assessments: Implement standardized climate risk assessments and hotspot mapping techniques across all HAPs. This enables consistent identification of high-risk areas and populations, facilitating targeted interventions and resource allocation.
  • Targeted Interventions: Design targeted interventions that address the unique needs of vulnerable populations, including low-income communities, children, and the elderly. Consideration should be given to the socio-economic factors that influence vulnerability, such as access to cooling shelters and healthcare services.
  • Budget Allocation: Allocate dedicated funding for HAPs at the state and local levels to ensure sustained implementation and effective response during heat waves. Additionally, establish mechanisms for financial support to informal workers, enabling them to seek refuge indoors without risking loss of income.
  • Integration with Resilience Plans: Integrate HAPs into broader urban resilience plans to leverage existing resources and infrastructure. This promotes synergy between climate adaptation efforts and heatwave preparedness, enhancing overall community resilience to extreme weather events.
  • Nature-based Solutions: Prioritize the integration of nature-based solutions, such as green and blue spaces, into HAPs. These solutions help mitigate heat stress by providing cooling effects and improving air quality, thereby enhancing the resilience of urban areas to heat waves.

Conclusion

Addressing these challenges and implementing the proposed measures will bolster India’s Heat Action Plans, enhancing their efficacy in safeguarding lives and public health during episodes of extreme heat.

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