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Report highlights gaps in India’s Heat Action Plans for heatwaves

Asia's risk of humid heat waves rises 30 times with climate change

The Center for Policy Research (CPR) has released a report titled “How is India adapting to heatwaves?”, which highlights India’s lack of preparedness for extreme heat events.

The Heat Action Plan (HAP) is the primary policy response to severe heatwaves in India, aiming to mitigate the resulting economic losses through various early onset, disaster response, and post-heatwave activities by state, district, and city government departments.

The report analysed all 37 HAPs in 18 states of India and assessed their effectiveness in addressing the challenges posed by extreme heat events. The study found that the majority of heat management plans were not developed on a local basis and that almost all HAPs failed to identify the populations most at risk.

The frequency of heatwaves has increased due to climate change, and they pose significant challenges to health and productivity. Heatwaves have reduced workers’ ability to work and caused large-scale mortality and economic losses by affecting water availability, agriculture, and energy systems.

While estimates suggest that over 100 HAPs exist across India, the CPR conducted the first significant review of summer action plans at the city, district, and state levels in 18 states. The report reveals that it is unclear to what extent HAPs are being implemented.

India’s HAPs lack local adaptation

India’s HAPs, which are the primary policy response to economically damaging and life-threatening heatwaves, are not designed for local contexts, according to a report by CPR. The HAPs focus on dry extreme heat and ignore the threats posed by humid heat and warm nights.

Furthermore, the report highlights that vulnerable groups are not being targeted, with only two HAPs conducting and presenting vulnerability assessments.

While most HAPs list broad categories of vulnerable groups, the report finds that the proposed solutions do not necessarily focus on these groups.

Funding sources for HAPs are also underfunded, with only three of 37 HAPs identifying funding sources, and eight HAPs asking implementing departments to self-allocate resources.

The report also notes that HAPs have weak legal foundations, as none of the reviewed HAPs indicate the legal sources of their authority. This reduces bureaucratic incentives to prioritize and comply with HAPs instructions.

India’s HAPs need urgent attention

A new report by the Center for Policy Research (CPR) has identified gaps in India’s Heat Action Plans (HAPs) that need to be addressed in order to protect vulnerable populations from the impacts of rising temperatures.

The report predicts that by 2050, 24 urban centers in India will experience average summer maximum temperatures exceeding 35 °C, which will disproportionately affect economically weaker sections of the population.

The report highlights the need to assess and identify the populations most affected by heat stress, as most HAPs only list broad categories of vulnerable groups, such as the older people, outdoor workers, and pregnant women, without necessarily addressing their specific needs.

CPR report further highlights weak legal foundations for HAPs, with none of the reviewed plans explaining the legal sources of their authority. This reduces bureaucratic incentives to prioritize and comply with HAP instructions.

Economic loss and health issues

The report states that there is no national repository of HAPs, and few are listed online, making it unclear whether they are being updated periodically based on evaluation data.

The report warns that without the right HAPs in place, India’s poorest will continue to suffer the most from the heat, with adverse impacts on both their health and income.

International Labor Organization estimates that heat stress will result in a 5.8 percent loss of working hours by 2030, or the equivalent of 34 million jobs.

The report recommends identifying sources of funding for HAPs and integrating actions with existing national and state policies to continually improve them.

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