Webinar Highlights the Vulnerability of South Asia Region to Heat Stresses and Solutions to Mitigate It

Heat-related socioecological risks are one of the most significant challenges posed by a rising global temperature. This frequently results in potentially reparable but significant economic damages and irreparable human losses. The risk is particularly high in approximately 60% of working population in South Asia that is engaged in outdoor labour activities, which serves as the mainstay of economies of South Asian countries. To respond to the growing challenges related to extreme heat, government and policy bodies need to implement strategies that will improve building design, urban planning, and emergency planning through regulations, incentives, pilot projects, and climate resilience programs. In order to facilitate capacity and knowledge building of GCoM South Asian cities and beyond on technical understanding of heat stresses and effective strategies to reduce it in cities, ICLEI South Asia as the GCoM South Asia Technical Coordinator, with support of the European Union Delegation to India and GCoM India Coordinator, organised a webinar on ‘Rising Vulnerability to Heat Stress: Actions and Strategies for South Asian Cities’ on the 27th of April 2023. The webinar discussed the need to improve cities’ capacity to safeguard human lives during heat extremes. The participants were also made aware of the need to implement building and urban design solutions to reduce urban heat island effect and its benefits. Participants included representatives from four South Asian countries, one South East Asian country and one East Asian Country, comprising of urban development experts, climate change professionals and government representatives. Mr Rohit Magotra, Deputy Director, Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe), pointed out the negative impacts caused by heat stresses on ecosystems, human health, productivity and livelihood. He elaborated on the varying definitions of heatwaves in the South Asia region and its increasing occurrence over the years in India. Citing his organization’s work, he stressed on the importance of preparing climate adaptive Heat Action Plans (HAPs). He also recommended prioritizing wards and areas most affected by urban heat island effect (UHIE) and revising the heat stress threshold for early warning systems. Mr Ankit Makvana, Manager (Energy and Climate), ICLEI South Asia presented the Urban Cooling Plan for Rajkot developed by ICLEI South Asia. He explained the methodology adopted for preparing the Cooling Plan and the various findings and recommendations. He emphasized that cooling solutions for concrete roofs can potentially reduce the surface temperature by 1-4°C. Ms Arusha Anand, City Project Coordinator, Nagpur Municipal Corporation, UNDP in India – Government of Maharashtra, presented the approach and steps to formulating Nagpur’s Heat Action Plan. She also explained the institutional structure, roles of key persons and departments and the actions taken as a part of the Heat Action Plan. Due to the city administration’s efforts, Nagpur city was able to reduce the heatwave related cases from 438 in 2016 to 176 in 2022. Mr Ashish Jindal, Lead - Cooling and Efficiency, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), India, highlighted the benefits of cool roof solutions through case studies. He also explained the rationale behind Telangana’s cool roof policy and its objectives and targets. Telangana aims to save up to 600 million units (GWh) of electricity per year after 5 years through the Cool Roof Policy. Further, the state government will have 300 sq.km of cool roof area that expected to offset carbon emissions of 30 million tonnes in 5 years.