Strengthening Preparedness for Extreme Heat in Jodhpur
A workshop in Jodhpur highlights the need for local actions to address mounting heat risks.
A workshop in Jodhpur, India highlights the need for local actions to address mounting heat risks.
Extreme heat has gripped several parts of India again this year, but earlier than expected: the country experienced its hottest March since recordkeeping began 122 years ago. Overall, India has reported 280 heat wave days between March 11 and May 18 this year— the highest total in 12 years. Climate change is making such extreme events more severe and more frequent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent Report on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability makes it clear that intensifying heat and humidity in India could be increasingly challenging for people to survive.
Local Workshop On Growing Heat Threats
As millions of people continue to face extremely hot weather, cities in India are implementing new to actions to keep people safe. This month, NRDC and Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) co-organized a workshop for Jodhpur Nagar Nigam (JNN), the municipal corporation of the city of Jodhpur, to initiate a dialogue on development of a Heat Action Plan (HAP) for the city. The workshop convened a panel of experts to share insights on the importance of heat preparedness and response measures that can reduce population vulnerability to extreme heat. To draw attention to the lived reality of intense heat, women from low-income communities of Jodhpur, recounted their personal experiences of rising temperatures and the benefits of cool roof installations in their homes for moderating indoor temperatures.
According to a new study, the unusually early heat waves sweeping India and Pakistan this year were made 30 times more likely due to climate change. According to another analysis, five Indian states (including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Haryana) together account for more than half of extreme temperature hazards so far this year. Extreme heat is not merely a public inconvenience: it can seriously endanger public health. Heat stress hits the poor the hardest with people living in slums and low-income communities particularly vulnerable to health hazards. That’s why coordinated actions that strengthen heat resilience—across public and private spheres, in historically hot areas as well as more recently heat-vulnerable—are so crucial.
Heat Hazards in Jodhpur
Jodhpur, located in the state of Rajasthan, has a semi-arid climate and consistently experiences high daytime temperatures. On May 19, 2016, the village of Phalodi recorded a daytime temperature of 51 °C (123.8 °F), ranking as the highest temperature ever recorded in India. This year, many districts of Rajasthan faced severe heat in early May.
As heat risks intensify, city leaders in Jodhpur are taking steps to develop a local Heat Action Plan (HAP), a tool deployed by many Indian cities to better coordinate local responses and reduce the heat-related health burden. In Ahmedabad, which launched South Asia’s first HAP in 2013, HAP implementation has been linked to avoidance of more than 1,100 deaths each year, with the greatest health benefits observed on the warmest days. Ahmedabad’s groundbreaking work is informing discussions in Jodhpur on ways to adapt to extreme heat hazards in an equitable and durable way.
Experts Highlight the Importance of Local Solutions
At the June 3 workshop, experts convened to share knowledge and best practices to inform development of the city’s Heat Action Plan. Leading voices from central, state, and city governments and civil society leaders provided insight into current efforts underway elsewhere in India to improve heat resilience:
- Dr. Tejas Shah, Health Officer from Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) presented an overview of several initiatives and actions implemented by the city under its HAP since 2013. Dr. Shah said “The action on heat must be taken at the local level and HAPs enable you to do so and is one of the simplest solutions to implement. HAPs include a city based interagency coordination system which helps to disseminate heat alerts of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to different departments in the city triggering action by those departments. The HAP also helps spread public awareness on upcoming heatwaves and measures to protect yourself from heat through various outreach measures such as IECs, newspaper alerts and others.” Dr. Shah also highlighted how solar reflective roofs installed in several slum dwellings in the city under the Ahmedabad HAP are helping communities to cope with extreme heat.
- Dr. Radhe Shyam Sharma from IMD’s Jaipur Centre shared the number of heatwave days in Jodhpur in the past decades, ranged from 0-20 days a year (1969-2022). He said that 2022 is the already warmest year in the city since 1998. In his presentation, he explained IMD’s early warning system for heatwaves. Dr. Sharma highlighted “Months of May-June are the hottest months for the city of Jodhpur. The early warning system for heatwaves helps cities to prepare and plan for extreme heat events, by providing timely information on the ground to enable action. IMD is committed to provide improved and upgraded early-warning heat and work with cities to provide this timely information to prepare for heat.”
Extreme heat exposures are already a public health emergency in India that killed an estimated 46,600 people aged 65 or older in 2019. Emphasizing the widespread health impacts of heat, Dr. Mahaveer Golechha from Indian Institute of Public Health- Gandhinagar (IIPH-G) provided an overview on the wide spectrum of heat related-illnesses and the socio-economic impacts of heat stress and reduced worker productivity. He mentioned a recent study by the International Labour Organization forecasting that India world lose 5.8% of working hours in 2030 because of heat stress as global temperatures rise, equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs globally.
- Polash Mukerjee from NRDC highlighted the mechanisms implemented by India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to support states and cities to respond to extreme heat events such as the national guidelines for HAP preparation. Mr. Mukerjee noted, “While there are key common elements of heat action plans across the country, each state or city has customized these plans to suit their local needs. There is increasing focus now on promoting medium- and long-term adaptive measures for coping with heat that are being incorporated into HAPs.”
At the event, representatives from a joint MHT-NRDC cool roofs project shared their experience with household-level interventions to address growing heat hazards. MHT works to organize and empower women in poor communities to improve housing conditions. It has grassroots programs in housing development, climate change resilience, and participatory governance that empowers women to exercise their rights and achieve improvements in living conditions for their families and neighbors. As part of its program on climate resilience, MHT is implementing different cool roof technologies and building capacity for communities to cope with extreme heat.
Kiranbhen, a Jodhpur resident, mentioned that she has observed a notable difference in indoor temperatures since the installation of cool roofs in her home. She said, “It is more comfortable for children to study indoors during peak heat hours and to do household chores, after we painted our roof with a cool paint.” Other local participants mentioned that they have also benefitted from lower electricity bills after installation of cool roofs.
The event concluded with officials from Jodhpur Nagar Nigam expressing the need to accelerate development of a HAP for the city. Rajendra Singh Kaviya, Jodhpur North Municipal Commissioner, recognized heatwave management as a priority issue of concern and said that the city government is ready to address heatwave management in a sustained way--far beyond temporary measures. Jodhpur stands ready to learn from Ahmedabad’s HAP experience and develop its own local strategies tailored to address community needs.
As the world continues to warm, NRDC and partners are continuing to engage with government leaders, civil society partners, and technical experts to expand solutions to strengthen response to extreme heat through Heat Action Plans, cool roof installations, and other adaptation measures that can achieve lifesaving benefits.
See below for a recording of the Jodhpur workshop: