To assess how well-prepared the country is for heatwaves, the Centre for Policy Research has examined 37 HAPs in 18 states
With February 2023 being recorded as the warmest month since 1901, Heat Action Plans have become a significant tool to brace ourselves for the onslaught of global warming. The world also had extreme heatwaves the previous year. The number of hot days lasted for 280 days between March and May in India, last year.
Now, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) has examined all 37 heat action plans (HAPs) across 18 states to determine how policy action is keeping up with the warming weather in India. This analysis follows the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report, which was released last week and emphasised the need for the world to reduce emissions in the next two decades to prevent warming temperatures from reaching 1.5C.
“How is India Adapting to Heatwaves?: An Assessment of Heat Action Plans with Insights for Transformative Climate Action by the Centre for Policy Research” evaluates 37 HAPs across 18 states to determine how well-prepared the nation is to deal with heatwaves. This is the first comprehensive analysis of HAPs.
What are HAPs (heat action plans)?
India's principal solution to economically destructive and life-threatening heatwaves is the use of HAPs. To lessen the effects of heatwaves, they recommend a range of prevention strategies, disaster preparedness, and post-heatwave response actions across state, district, and local government departments.
“India has made considerable progress by creating several dozen heat action plans in the last decade. But our assessment reveals several gaps that must be filled in future plans. If we don’t, India will suffer damaging economic losses due to decreasing labour productivity, sudden and frequent disruptions to agriculture (like we saw last year), and unbearably hot cities as heatwaves become more frequent and intense,” says Aditya Valiathan Pillai, Associate Fellow at CPR and co-author of the report.
Key findings of the report
According to the CPR report, the majority of HAPs use thresholds for national heatwaves, which may not be appropriate for the dangers experienced by local communities. Just 10 of the 37 HAPs appear to have temperature thresholds that are localised.
It also reveals that almost all HAPs miss identifying and concentrating on vulnerable groups. “Only two HAPs conduct and report vulnerability analyses (systematic studies to locate where the people most likely to be affected are in a city, district, or state). While the majority of HAPs include general categories of at-risk groups (elders, outdoor workers, pregnant women), the treatments they suggest may not always be geared towards these groups,” says the report.
Another crucial aspect spotlighted by CPR is that HAPs are underfunded. Among the 37 HAPs, only 3 mention financing sources. Eight HAPs request that implementing departments self-allocate resources, which highlights a severe lack of finance.
HAPs have been revealed to have weak legal foundations. “None of the HAPs reviewed indicate the legal sources of their authority. This reduces bureaucratic incentives to prioritise and comply with HAPs instructions.”
Very few HAPs are listed online, and there is no central repository for HAPs. The frequency of these HAP updates and if they are based on evaluation data are likewise unknown.
Taking account of the positive side, the CPR has noted that 25 of the 37 HAPs create nodal officers or organisations for implementation. For accountability, several (18 of 37) name specific officers in line departments who are in charge of execution.
“These nodal agencies are responsible for coordination, but it was unclear to us whether the agencies carried enough bureaucratic authority to direct line departments, particularly for long-term, transformative actions such as those related to urban re-development or changing crop patterns.”
More than half of the HAPs (18 of 37; unclear in another 8) specify what each department must do in a heatwave, frequently in great detail. These SOPs, which frequently outline what should be done before, during, and after a heatwave, are helpful, but they must be updated as the types and lengths of heat waves change over time.
According to the study, almost all HAPs set established channels of communication for heatwave alerts, but more research is required to determine how well heat advisories are used.