South Asia’s First Lifesaving Plan to Protect Against Extreme Heat Expands
AHMEDABAD (April 15, 2015) – South Asia’s first-ever early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events is expanding today with the release of the 2015 Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan. The groundbreaking plan’s initial implementation proved successful in protecting its citizens, prompting Ahmedabad to now expand its safety measures. As average temperatures have increased over the last decade, climate scientists predict more frequent and severe heat waves. Given the initiative’s success, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Public Health Foundation of India – Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, and other international partners honored the leadership of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for innovative and outstanding leadership in building disaster risk preparedness and community resilience, which could be used as a model for similar adaptation plans throughout Asia.
“The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan is a necessary step towards protecting our communities from extreme heat and a beautiful model for future climate adaptation efforts,” said Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner D. Thara.
The innovative emergency preparedness plan was created by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in 2013 in partnership with an international coalition of health and academic groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, and key partners. The Heat Action Plan has helped reduce the deadly impact of extreme heat by initiating an early warning system for residents, providing preparation and training to medical and community workers, building public awareness of heat-related health risks, and coordinating inter-agency emergency response efforts when heat waves hit. These teams are now working to expand heat wave preparedness by hosting a country-wide workshop today in Ahmedabad to inform other interested cities about how to prepare their own early warning systems and heat preparation plans.
“These heat action plans are a necessary response to climate change,” said Anjali Jaiswal, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s India Initiative. “Hundreds of thousands of people are already living on the threshold of what is tolerable heat-wise; even incremental changes in climate can push these temperatures over the line. Luckily, these programs are also very straightforward and effective.”
Heat poses a serious health challenge in Ahmedabad where daily maximum temperatures can peak as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) during the “summer” months of March through June. Heat affects people through dehydration, acute heat illnesses (such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke), and the worsening of chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Ahmedabad residents, including communities in dense urban areas with tin-roof housing, are at elevated risk due to high population density, compromised access to safe drinking water, exposure to high temperatures, and little access to cooling such as shade, fans, air conditioning, and other protective measures. Residents of poor communities, the elderly and young, and outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable.
"Unless we prepare to adapt our cities and rural areas to rising temperatures and heat waves, we may face serious health issues and mortality during future heat waves. Ahmedabad's Heat Action Plan is tailored to help the most vulnerable city residents cope with rising temperatures. Preliminary results of the Heat Action Plan in 2013 and 2014 showed that it was successful in saving many lives and raising the discourse around extreme heat waves and health to larger strata of society. Given the very hot conditions in north and central India, it is imperative scale up the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan as part of the ‘Gujarat Model.’ We hope that through this renewed expansion, other cities and states can use this innovative model as a foundation to craft their own plans and increase adaptive capacity in at-risk communities across the country, making it more heat resilient in view of climate change," explained Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, Director of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar.
This year’s heat action plan includes mapping high-risk areas of the city, expanding public outreach in vulnerable communities and increasing response capacity among medical professionals and hospitals (for example, making ice packs more widely available for use during heat waves). The Heat Action Plan is part of a broader collaboration between the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and public health and policy experts at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar; Public Health Foundation of India; Natural Resources Defense Council; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University; Georgia Institute of Technology; and supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.
Due to the success of these efforts, other cities are considering adoption of the effective program. The country-wide workshop highlights the Ahmedabad experience to scale heat action plans to leading cities and states in India, as encouraged by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, former Minister for Health and Family Welfare. Government officials, leading scientists, academics and international experts from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Indian Meteorological Department, the National Institute of Disaster Management, the Government of Gujarat, the Government of Odisha and others will share their expertise in developing policies to build community resilience from extreme heat.
“Local steps being taken by cities, like Ahmedabad’s heat action plan, are crucial in the global fight against climate change,” said Dr. Jeremy Hess, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change author and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Emory School of Medicine and of Environmental Health at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University. “The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has shown tremendous leadership, and I hope their experience will help other cities to implement on-the-ground solutions to growing threats such as extreme heat.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The 2015 Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan, Easy Read Version: 2015 Heat Action Plan
Read more about health preparedness efforts to address rising heat in Ahmedabad in Anjali Jaiswal’s blog.
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