Understanding the health impacts of heat stress in India

Resilience against extreme heat requires both individual and collective efforts

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In response to extreme heat waves this summer, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued heat wave alerts in six states of north India. According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the year 2015 alone saw a record number of heat-related mortality cases at 2,422, that is, a nearly four-fold jump since 2008 [1]. Both short-term impacts, such as headache, fatigue, heat-related fainting are connected to heat stress as well as long-term exposure causing cardiovascular diseases, kidney failure, respiratory distress, and liver failure have been commonly recorded. The IPCC AR5 predicts work output of the global economy to fall by as much as 20% by the end of the century in the event of 4 ºC warming of the planet [2].

Several cities and states, such as Ahmedabad, Odisha, and Telangana [3,4,5] have formulated action plans to address this issue. These action plans contain measures insofar as capacity building of healthcare professionals, updating records to track emergency cases, running specialized dispensaries during peak summer, collecting real-time information, regulating timing of construction and outdoor workers, etc is concerned. There is need to formulate robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to be able to track their progress right upto the district level in order to provide the much-needed urgency in the government machinery.

[1] Guidelines for Preparation of Action Plan- Prevention and Management of Heat-Wave; 2016; National Disaster Management Authority; Government of India; https://ndma.gov.in/images/guidelines/guidelines-heat-wave.pdf
[2] Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf
[3] Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan 2017 Guide to extreme heat planning in Ahmedabad, India; 2017; Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation; https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/ahmedabad-heat-action-plan-2017.pdf
[4] Heat Action Plan for Odisha; 2018; Odisha State Disaster Management Authority; http://www.osdma.org/Download/heat-wave-action-plan.pdf
[5] Heatwave Action Plan- 2018; Revenue (Disaster Management) Department; Government of Telangana; Telangana State; http://www.imdhyderabad.gov.in/tssite/TELANGANAHeatActionPlan.pdf

Climate change
Climate vulnerability
Public Health