City of Nagpur Leads Maharashtra with Plan to Protect Residents against Deadly Heat Waves


Guest Blog by Priya Dutta & Ajit Rajiva of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar

Amidst a blistering heat wave that have been devastating communities across India, Nagpur is taking a stand against the heat.

Following Ahmedabad's example, Nagpur is working towards becoming the second city in India to devise a Heat Action Plan (HAP). The HAP lays out a strategy to help the city mitigate the incidence of heat-related illnesses and fatalities, which plague its residents throughout the arid summer months. City officials hosted a two-day workshop in early May - before the current heat wave hit - to underscore the urgent need to confront the effects of heat stress and learn best practices from Ahmedabad, where the first HAP in India was adopted in 2013.

Learning from Ahmedabad

Back in May 2010, city officials in Ahmedabad suffered through scorching temperatures and a fatal heat wave that resulted in 1,344 deaths--a 43% increase in heat-related mortality compared to that of a typical summer season.

After this deadly heat wave, the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar (IIPH), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University partnered with the the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to launch the city's first Heat Action Plan in 2013. Georgia Institute of Technology's CFAN group provides a pioneering daily 7-day forecast to the AMC. The plan develops coordinated action to reduce the devastating health effects of heat stress on the local population.

Presenting the experiences from Ahmedabad's HAP and learning from global best practices, AMC, IIPH-G, NRDC and partner organizations held a country-wide workshop in Ahmedabad to inform interested cities and government leaders on the steps to prepare their own early warning systems and heat preparation plans.

Around 50 delegates and representatives participated in the workshop at Ahmedabad. An updated version of the 2015 HAP was also unveiled.

Nagpur HAP Workshop

Inspired by her experience at the workshop, Maharashtra's Principal Secretary of Health Sujata Saunik returned to her state and quickly began plans to craft a heat action plan in Nagpur, a densely populated city located in northeastern Maharashtra and central India. The state of Maharashtra is also the home state to India's largest metropolis, Mumbai.

Nagpur recognizes the need to adopt measures to protect its residents against heat stress. For seven consecutive summers, the city has seen temperatures exceed 45°C (113°F). In 2013, extreme temperatures lasted for 21 days--twice the duration of a typical heat wave. According to the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), 196 cases of sunstroke were recorded over the past decade, of which 18 of the afflicted died of the heat-related complications.

With many of its people residing in slum communities, Nagpur's residents are particularly vulnerable to suffering increased casualties related to heat stress. These conditions make clear that a heat action plan is needed in Nagpur and the government's support helps propel the heat preparedness initiative forward.

Chart shows maximum ambient temperature of Nagpur city, from METAR data.

The NMC and the Public Health Department of Maharashtra along with IIPH-G, and NRDC organized an action-oriented policy workshop held May 8-9 in Nagpur.

At the workshop, NMC presented the heat action plan steps, promoted communication among the plan's participants, and urged neighboring communities to take similar precautionary measures. Science and policy experts from across the country shared knowledge on the health effects of heat stress. Together, they hoped to drive the agenda for increasing resilience to extreme heat and climate change in their respective cities and states.


Photos: (top) Group photograph of the workshop; (bottom) Secretary Sujata Saunik addressing the participants © IIPH-G

Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, Director of IIPH-G, presented the overview of Nagpur's HAP, which is scheduled to take effect in December of 2015, and stressed the importance of the widespread adoption of heat action plans. Workshop participants received a HAP tutorial from Dr. Priya Dutta, also of the IIPH-G. Participants then coordinated with experts to tailor the Ahmedabad HAP to their own cities.

After implementing the plan for Nagpur, Secretary Saunik plans to introduce HAPs to other districts within the state of Maharashtra, including Gondia, Akola, Amravati and Chandrapur.

Outcome of the Nagpur Workshop and Looking Ahead

The Nagpur workshop brought together members of different departments within the city to promote an understanding of the key stakeholders that will be the foundation for each district's HAP. Constant communication between the different municipal departments and external stakeholders was crucial to the success of the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan. More meetings will need to be conducted to ensure that communication channels between HAP participants remain open in Nagpur as well.

Nagpur's eagerness to fortify itself against the heat and encourage other cities to do the same sparks hope that heat action plans will be adopted in areas vulnerable to heat stress. With careful planning and preventative action, HAPs can provide Indian citizens with much-needed preparation and protection from the devastating impacts of severe heat.

Contributions from Morgan Capilla, NRDC Stanback Fellow