Success Story from Vibrant Gujarat: Evaluating Ahmedabad's Heat Action Plan


Guest blog by Nehmat Kaur, NRDC India Representative

Located in the hot and urbanizing northwestern corner of India, the state of Gujarat is abuzz with anticipation for the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat 2015 Summit that will be held in January. Vibrant Gujarat is an initiative created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the state’s Chief Minister to showcase the state nationally and internationally as a place for progress, development and business. This year’s summit anticipates attendance by international companies and dignitaries, including (among others) Prime Minister Modi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Butte.

One key focus and goal of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit is encouraging attendees to enter into knowledge and strategic partnerships (called “Memoranda of Understanding” or “MOUs”). NRDC and our partners, the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), signed an MOU with the state of Gujarat at a past Summit, leading to the development and implementation of the country’s first Heat Action Plan in the state’s largest city, Ahmedabad, in 2013.

This Heat Action Plan—an early warning system and heat preparedness plan aimed at saving lives—is a landmark project for the city’s government, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). As the region’s annual heat season brings scorching temperatures from April to June, the Ahmedabad Climate Heat Action Group—a coalition of scientific and policy experts including the AMC, NRDC, PHFI, IIPH and others—releases the city’s Heat Action Plan with stakeholder feedback from the previous heat season. After the heat season, the coalition holds a follow-up stakeholder evaluation workshop to bring together all government and non-governmental agencies and groups that have worked together to safeguard Ahmedabad’s most vulnerable communities from the health effects of extreme heat (for more information about the creation and implementation of the pilot Heat Action Plan, please see here and here).

This year’s evaluation workshop was held last week in Ahmedabad under the leadership of the AMC. Led by NRDC and IIPH, more than 50 participants from various AMC departments, the local emergency medical response services (known as “108 GVK-EMRI”), and local health professionals came together for a half-day workshop to discuss the successes and lessons learned from the 2014 Heat Action Plan and how to enhance the 2015 Heat Action Plan.

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AMC Heat Action Plan Evaluation Workshop in Ahmedabad, December 11, 2014. Photo: NRDC

Each participant was fully engaged and provided their input on concrete suggestions for the 2015 Heat Action Plan, leading to many valuable ideas. Key takeaways from the workshop included: 

  • To increase community awareness, stakeholders suggested conducting more focused outreach in identified high-risk communities across the city. Because children and slum communities are two of the most vulnerable groups to heat-related health complications in Ahmedabad, a valuable suggestion was to focus on outreach to primary schools—including efforts such as “teaching the teachers” (to disseminate tips to their students on how to protect oneself during a heat wave) and conducting tree planting drives (to increase areas of shaded respite). Additionally, because radio is a highly utilized and accessible news source among the city’s slum populations, radio broadcasts are an effective communication tool to disseminate heat protection tips and high temperature warnings to reach the target communities.
  • To improve interagency communication and the medical response during the heat season, stakeholders suggested developing concrete distribution plans for supplies such as ice packs and drinking water resources. Hospitals could also appoint a nodal officer to report on heat-related cases during the three months of extreme heat in order to keep a closer tab on heat-related sickness in the city.

As these proposed interventions make clear, the workshop helped develop concrete strategies and programs to enhance the 2015 Heat Action Plan ahead of Ahmedabad’s next heat season. As the entire state readies for what is expected to be a blockbuster Vibrant Gujarat Summit next month, NRDC, AMC, IIPH and the rest of our Ahmedabad Climate Heat Action Group will continue evaluating, improving and implementing one of the Summit’s successful MOUs and partnerships—to protect Ahmedabad’s most vulnerable populations in the face of climate change fueling more extreme temperatures.

Our team will be providing blog updates leading up to the release of the 2015 Heat Action Plan as Ahmedabad gears up for another dangerous heat season, and after attending Vibrant Gujarat in January 2015, so stay tuned!