India is no stranger to warm weather, but now its residents are facing a new challenge: heat waves intensified by climate change. These hotter temperatures pose a major health threat. When a severe heat wave hit Ahmedabad in 2010, for example, people poured into hospitals with dehydration, heat stroke, and respiratory problems. Slum residents were especially hard hit, and city officials struggled to provide necessary care. Experts say the heat contributed to more than 1,000 deaths. Another heat wave that swept across much of India in May 2015 caused as many as 2,300 deaths.
NRDC is helping Indian communities prepare for heat waves and prevent heat-related deaths and illnesses. In 2011 we began working with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the Indian Institute of Public Health, the Public Health Foundation of India, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and other organizations to analyze the health effects of heat exposure and examine the vulnerability of residents, including children, the elderly, outdoor workers, and slum communities. We also explored options for early-warning systems that would give officials and residents time to prepare.
Based on our research, we collaborated with Ahmedabad's city agencies to develop South Asia's first Heat Action Plan in 2013, a comprehensive early-warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events. It includes targeted policy interventions that increase information sharing, communication, preparation, and response coordination to prepare all Ahmedabad residents for the risks of hotter temperatures.
NRDC and its partners have provided materials and support to create a road map for other cities and states across India to adopt their own heat-preparedness plans. We convene nationwide workshops to inform interested government leaders, and we continue to evaluate the initial Heat Action Plan's effectiveness in reducing health impacts and saving the lives in the face of continuing extreme temperatures.