Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan
A comprehensive action plan to increase the City of Ahmedabad’s resilience to extreme heat events.
Climate change is leading to an increase in average temperatures globally and severe heat events are becoming commonplace. The City of Ahmedabad and the State of Gujarat in India are particularly affected by this phenomenon.
In response to a deadly heat wave in May 2010 that killed 1344 residents, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) announced the development of a Heat Action Plan. The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan was released in 2013 with contributions from national and international academic experts and learnings from global best practices on early warning systems and heat adaptation.
The Plan serves to focus attention on those individuals who are most at risk during heat waves, including slum communities, outdoor workers, elderly and children. The Plan also focuses on individuals and organizations, such as Urban Health Centres and link workers, who frequently work with at-risk populations and can provide early diagnosis of heat-related illnesses and preliminary treatment.
The Heat Action Plan is revisited annually and the 2016 iteration includes a comprehensive early warning strategy presenting immediate and long-term actions to increase preparedness, information-sharing, and response coordination in order to reduce the hazardous impact of extreme heat on vulnerable populations to create more resilient communities.
Background and objectives
Ahmedabad is one of India’s fastest growing cities and the economic centre of the state of Gujarat. Ahmedabad District, including the surrounding suburban and rural areas, is home to 7.2 million people. Located in the arid Northwest region of India, Ahmedabad’s warm and dry weather conditions are conducive to frequent heat waves. The average temperature during Summer is 41c, however in the summer of 2016, Ahmedabad recorded the highest temperature of the past century: 48°C on May 19. Additionally, the extreme heat events impacting Ahmedabad are expected to increase in intensity, length, and frequency in the coming decade.
To protect and prepare Ahmedabad for extreme heat events, AMC and its partners have identified the following objectives.
- epidemiological analysis of the health effects of heat exposure among residents
- examination of specific vulnerability factors among slum dwellers and highly exposed occupational workers
- exploration of long term forecasting option to provide earlier warnings
- development of heat illness management training for health professionals
- evaluate and update the Heat Action Plan regularly
The city of Ahmedabad’s Health Department has the overarching responsibility for the coordination of heat wave related health activities. This includes monitoring forecasts and sending heat health alerts and disseminating public health messages to local departments and community service providers, as well as working with the AMC media office to increase communication around preparedness.
The 2016 Heat Action Plan aims to implement four key strategies:
- Building Public Awareness and Community Outreach to communicate the risks of heat waves and implement practical solutions to prevent heat-related deaths and illnesses. Disseminating public messages on how to protect people against extreme heat through media outlets and the distribution of flyers and advertisements on heat stress prevention. Efforts also include the use of SMS text messages, email, radio and mobile applications such as WhatsApp. Special efforts are made to reach vulnerable populations through inter-personal communication as well as other outreach methods.
- Utilizing an Early Warning System and Inter-Agency Coordination to alert residents of predicted high and extreme temperatures. The Indian Meteorological Department shares a daily five-day forecast with the Heat Action Plan Nodal Officer during the heat season. AMC has created formal communication channels to alert government agencies, the Met Centre, health officials and hospitals, emergency responders, local community groups, and media outlets of forecasted extreme temperatures.
- Capacity Building among Health Care Professionals to recognise and respond to heat-related illnesses, particularly during extreme heat events. A training focus on primary medical officers, paramedical staff and community health staff so they can effectively prevent and manage heat-related cases so as to reduce mortality.
- Reducing Heat Exposure and Promoting Adaptive Measures by undertaking new efforts, including mapping of high-risk areas of the city, increasing outreach and communication on prevention methods, access to portable drinking water and cooling spaces during extreme heat days. Collaboration with non-government organisations is also identified as a means to expand outreach and communication with the city’s most at-risk communities.
Financing and resources
The Heat Action Plan is part of a broader collaboration between AMC and public health and policy experts at the Indian Institute of Public Health - Gandhinagar, Public Health Foundation of India, Natural Resources Defense Council, India Meteorological Department, University of Washington, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and supported in part by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.
Results and impacts
A preliminary evaluation of the 2013-2016 Heat Action Plans demonstrate significant positive outcomes in reducing death rates during the hottest months of the year. As an example, during the 2015 country-wide heatwave which resulted in 2,300 people dying, Ahmedabad reported fewer than 20 heat-related deaths.
Barriers and challenges
As in many cities in India, financial resources in Ahmedabad are limited and must be allocated judiciously. Responding to budgetary concerns and timing constraints, project partners worked with the city to identify policies and programs that would have the strongest impact for the most at-risk groups. The team prioritized both short-term and long-term recommendations for vulnerable populations within policy briefs and the Heat Action Plan to ensure cost-effective and quick adoption of initial measures by local government.
Lessons learned and transferability
In Ahmedabad, strong local government leadership has enabled the development and effective implementation of Heat Action Plans since 2013. Buy-in from the city leadership strengthens coordinated action that is essential to protect communities from the dangerous impact of extreme heat on health, especially for vulnerable community members.
Some aspects of the Heat Action Plan, such as community awareness messaging, can simply be adopted by other Indian municipalities, while other aspects of the plan, such as temperature thresholds for activating the early warning system, need to be defined locally.
The positive results of the Heat Action Plan have contributed in assisting other cities and rural areas in India and other developing countries to adapt and develop their own Heat Action Plans.
Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan 2016, https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/ahmedabad-heat-action-plan-2016.pdf
Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, “Census of India 2011: Provisional Populations Totals, Ranking of Population Districts, 2001-2011,” Government of India: http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/prov_data_products_gujarat.html (last accessed July 26, 2012).
Azhar GS, Mavalankar D, Nori-Sarma A, Rajiva A, Dutta P, et al. Heat-Related Mortality in India: Excess All-Cause Mortality Associated with the 2010 Ahmedabad Heat Wave.PLoS ONE(2014)9(3):e91831.doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091831:http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0091831#abstract0
Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, “Census of India 2011: Provisional Populations Totals, Ranking of Population Districts, 2001-2011,” Government of India: http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/prov_data_products_gujarat.html (last accessed July 26, 2012)