Converging Heat Action Plans, Climate Goals, and Environmental Health for Healthier Communities

Environmental News from India: 

  • Heat action plans in India need to integrate long-term measures such as efforts to reduce indoor temperatures, be monitored and updated regularly and be more proactive to mitigate heat stress, say, experts.
  • Early warning systems can be aligned to indoor temperatures and humidity levels of households in low-income settings, which often differ from outside conditions.
  • A recent study shows that the temperature in many tin-roof houses in villages in Maharashtra during peak heat times (afternoon hours) can be more than the outside temperature.

With heatwaves setting in early, stretching on longer and with more intensity, heat action plans now need to account for the changing heat risks and differing vulnerability of exposed population groups. An action plan that mainstreams housing planning and management, land use planning and understanding of indoor heat stress is a long-term strategy to address heat risks in a warming world, say experts.

A recent study that measures indoor heat exposure and compares it to outdoor temperatures in rural-urban areas in South Asia, reveals that heat advisories that emphasise ‘staying indoors’ may not be helpful for families that experience a higher temperature within their homes than outside during the day. Another study that reviews 45 national Heat Action Plans/Health Heat Action Plans (HAP/HHAP) across the world, and HAPs in India pointed to a disconnect to urban planning interventions, and a lack of periodic monitoring and evaluation of HHAPs and a reactive approach to adaptation to heat stress.

“Many Indian cities and states have heat action plans, and they have succeeded in reducing the mortality and morbidity during extreme heat. But they’re focused on mortality and morbidity – they’re basically health-specific. Currently, not many of them have the long-term measures integrated into them,” architect Rajashree Kotharkar and co-author of the review told Mongabay-India. The research is supported by the National Disaster Management Agency.

Kotharkar is working with experts on identifying components of a ‘model heat action plan’ that integrates elements such as long-term urban planning and a reduction in indoor heat exposure. These elements are two of eight elements considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop comprehensive heat-health action plans. “One of them (long-term measures) is how do you cool the interiors? Because if people are going to stay inside, then how do you cool the interiors of the building, which becomes a part of how do we build in response to climate, which itself is a long-term measure,” added Kotharkar at the Department of Architecture and Planning, Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, Maharashtra.

The second long-term measure is identifying the vulnerable people and places, both of which require a heat vulnerability analysis, which is also a dynamic process because it will keep changing. and the third, says Kotharkar is “designing cities which are cooler – how do we plan the cities that will be resilient to the issue of urban heat.” According to the review, specific measures for ‘indoor heat reduction’ were addressed in 24 countries but missing in 14 countries.

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Source: Mongabay

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