How can India beat the heat?

16 June 2015

By Charlotte Finlay

It's starting to feel like summer in London, the grey coats are coming off, sunglasses are coming out and the umbrellas are being cautiously stored away. Whilst we enjoy the sunshine here in the UK, India has been suffering from one of the worst heat waves in recent history. Temperatures have reached 50 degrees and over 1700 people have died. As well as immediate deaths from heat stress there is an increasing threat of severe drought as the country waits for the monsoon rains. Media coverage of the crisis often doesn't make the link with climate change and presents the Government of India as largely unprepared.

However, this is not the case in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujurat. The PwC-led Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)* has been working for the last 3 years in partnership with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), a coalition of academic, health and environmental groups to develop an Extreme Heat Action Plan. This plan - centred around enhanced public awareness of extreme heat, an early warning system and heat preparedness planning - swings into action as the temperature rises and works together with the emergency services, health services and city authorities. The city is rapidly improving public health infrastructure in response. Ambulances are now strategically located where the highest number of calls for help during heat waves are issued. Hospitals now receive warnings when extreme temperatures are forecast and have extra ice packs on hand. And drinking water stations and public awareness materials are distributed throughout the city.

In the most recent month-long heat wave, Ahmedabad has so far registered only 7 deaths. This is in stark contrast to a heat spike in 2010 when 1,300 died across the city including at risk groups such as outdoor workers, children, the elderly and slum dwellers.

India heat

Images courtesy of CDKN

CDKN’s ongoing work in the city is looking at longer term resilience to extreme weather and heat and looking to implement the same approach in other interested cities in India and beyond. Perhaps if the lessons from Ahmedabad can be learned and shared more widely, future deaths from heat waves can be avoided. To find out more about CDKN’s work in India and elsewhere visit www.cdkn.org.

If you’d like to read more about some of the other climate shocks having widespread environmental and social impacts on our planet, then please visit our Megatrends website or visit our Sustainability & Climate Change website to see how we can help you adapt and prepare for these extreme possibilities.

* The Climate and Development Knowledge Network is a programme funded by the UK Department for International Development. It is managed by an alliance of organisations led by PwC, and including Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, LEAD Pakistan, the Overseas Development Institute, and SouthSouthNorth.  It supports decision-makers in designing and delivering climate compatible development

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