New Delhi, March 27

W

ith India witnessing unprecedented heatwaves in 2022 and this February declared the hottest month since 1901 by the India Meteorological Department, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) on Monday, in the first critical assessment, said most of the heat action plans (HAPs) in 18 states may not be suited to the risks faced by local populations.

Also, nearly all HAPs fail to identify and target vulnerable groups.

Closely following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the climate crisis that emphasised the need for the world to reduce emissions in the next two decades to prevent warming temperatures to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, the CPR has analysed all 37 HAPs across 18 states, to evaluate how policy action is keeping up with the warming weather in India.

A study by World Weather Attribution last year analysed the climate imprint on the Indian heatwave and claimed that human-induced actions made the chances of extreme heat events 30 times higher in the region.

The CPR's report says most HAPs are not built for local contexts. They across the country generally focus on dry extreme heat and ignore the threats posed by humid heat and warm nights.

Most HAPs adopt national heatwave thresholds that may not be suited to the risks faced by local populations. "Only 10 out of 37 HAPs seem to have locally-specified temperature thresholds. Climate projections, which could help identify future planning needs, are not integrated into current HAPs," says the CPR.

Nearly all HAPs fail to identify and target vulnerable groups. Only two HAPs carry out and present vulnerability assessments (systematic studies to locate where the people most likely to be affected are in a city, district, or state).

While most HAPs list broad categories of vulnerable groups (elderly, outdoor workers, pregnant women), the list of solutions they propose do not necessarily focus on these groups, says the CPR.

Also HAPs are underfunded. Only three of 37 HAPs identify funding sources. Eight HAPs ask implementing departments to self-allocate resources, indicating a serious funding constraint.

HAPs have weak legal foundations, it says. None of the HAPs reviewed indicate the legal sources of their authority. This reduces bureaucratic incentives to prioritise and comply with HAPs instructions.

Also the HAPs are insufficiently transparent.

There is no national repository of HAPs and very few HAPs are listed online. It is also unclear whether these HAPs are being updated periodically and whether this is based on evaluation data.

"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," said Aditya Valiathan Pillai, Associate Fellow at CPR and co-author of the report.

CPR's report, 'How Is India Adapting to Heatwaves? An Assessment of Heat Action Plans With Insights for Transformative Climate Action', recommends that HAPs identify sources of financing -- either from new funds or by combining actions with existing national and state policies -- and set up rigorous independent evaluations as a basis for constant improvement.

"Without implementation-oriented HAPs, India's poorest will continue to suffer from extreme heat, paying with both their health and incomes," added Pillai.

India's heat action plans not suited to risks: Report

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