Photo Essay: India and US Leaders Meet in New York to Spur Local Climate Resilience Action - Part 1

In this two part blog series, Part 1 highlights the climate and heat resilience and emergency preparedness efforts underway in India and the U.S., particularly NYC. Part 2 focuses on how experts in the academic and health fields lead and support climate resilience efforts in concert with the government.

"This two-way India-US dialogue on climate resilience forms a bridge between today and a safer, more healthy future."

~ Dr. L S Rathore, Director-General, Indian Meteorological Department

IMG_8115.jpgEchoing Pope Francis' address at the U.S. Congress to protect the most vulnerable among us, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly today, stating, "The world is connected and dependent on each other. Our international partnerships need to be centered on progress of humanity." These calls to action rightly focused on the growing threat of climate change. Although a global crisis, the disastrous impacts of our warming world are felt most acutely at the local level and therefore many of the solutions must be local as well.

Kicking off Climate Week NYC early, key government, academic and civil society leaders from India met with their counterparts in New York to discuss best practices on climate health and preparedness. One major topic was the scaling of local climate adaptation efforts across cities from Ahmedabad, India to New York City to protect vulnerable communities from extreme weather events including increasingly prevalent and severe heat waves. India experienced a devastating heat wave in May, causing more than 2,300 deaths across the country and emphasizing the urgent need for greater climate change preparedness. With NRDC and partners, the city of Ahmedabad in western India launched a Heat Action Plan in 2013, becoming the first early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events in South Asia, and an example of local climate resilience in action.

The gathering in NYC of experts and leaders from the US and India was part of the "India-US Climate Resilience Partnership: High-Level Knowledge Leadership Exchange Forum on Heat-Health and Climate Preparedness," hosted by NRDC, the Public Health Foundation of India-the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and supported by the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF). Lead hosts included NRDC's Anjali Jaiswal, Dr. Kim Knowlton, Meredith Connolly and Sameer Kwatra, Mount Sinai's Dr. Perry Sheffield, and IIPH's Dr. Partha Ganguly, Dr. Priya Dutta and Dr. Abhiyant Tiwari.

The central activities for the week included:

  • Discussion on Climate Disaster Response Hosted by New York City Department of Health
  • Discussion and Site Visit of New York City Emergency Management Command Center in Brooklyn
  • Discussion on Hospital Response Hosted by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Peer-to-Peer Exchange with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Discussion on Putting Climate Research into Action Hosted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
  • Historic Bellevue Hospital Site Visit

The following photos offer highlights of the first half of the peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange in New York City, particularly the climate and heat resilience and emergency preparedness efforts underway in India and New York.

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To kick off the week of meetings, the delegation gathered at NRDC for a tour of the office space's green building practices and cool roof. The roof is painted white to reflect sunlight and keep the building cooler, and also houses solar panels and a beehive.

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NRDC's Director of Programs, Dale Bryk (featured above), provided a warm welcome to delegates and an overview of NRDC's efforts to protect public health and fight climate change around the world. Dan Zarrilli, Director of New York City Mayor's Office of Recovery & Resiliency, offered a keynote address about the city's leadership on resilience and climate preparedness through the new One New York (OneNYC) plan. One startling fact that emerged from Mr. Zarrilli's presentation: By 2050, the number of days in NYC above 90°F are expected to at least double due to climate change.

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The delegation met with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene the following day to discuss New York's heat-health preparedness and response activities. NYCDOH's Katie Lane, Kaz Ito and Munerah Ahmed discussed the deadly threat of high temperatures in New York, preparedness efforts and communication outreach to the public and health providers, surveillance for heat-health planning, and development of temperature thresholds. Maharashtra State Public Health Secretary Sujata Saunik described the efforts in the city of Nagpur and surrounding areas to prepare for rising temperatures by enacting an early warning system and Heat Action Plan. Dr. Partha Ganguly of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, described Ahmedabad's surveillance system and community health response structure to reach the city's most vulnerable residents.

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In the Situation Room at New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) headquarters (pictured above), Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Preparedness Megan Pribram discussed New York City's risk landscape and the citywide management system, which is a model for interagency coordination when responding to hazards such as heat waves. Odisha State Disaster Management Authority's Dr. Kamal Mishra described state-level emergency preparedness in India, including his department's role in one of the largest evacuations in history ahead of Hurricane Phailin in 2013.

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NYCEM Watch Command Director Ben Krakauer then led a fascinating tour of the city's Command Center and 24/7 Watch Command, which provides state-of-the-art emergency preparedness for New York City during natural and man-made disasters. Adjacent to the NYCEM sits an innovative post-disaster housing prototype tailored for urban settings (featured above). The modular housing unit can be assembled in a matter of hours for residents of dense urban settings with limited space while their homes are uninhabitable.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Photo Essay for highlights from meetings with experts at Mount Sinai and Columbia University, and a tour of historic Bellevue Hospital.

Photo credit: All photos are © Meredith Connolly, NRDC

About the Authors

Anjali Jaiswal

Senior Director, India, International Program

Meredith Connolly

Climate & Energy Attorney, International program

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