Out of seven municipal corporations in Maharashtra, only two, including Nagpur and Chandrapur, have implemented the mandatory Heat Action Plan, even as the country has recorded a spike in heatwave incidents.
A senior official from the state government said on Friday that municipal corporations in Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Gondia and Wardha were yet to introduce this plan, which was approved in the summer of 2018.
Nagpur and Chandrapur are located in the Vidarbha region (eastern part of Maharashtra) of the state that experiences extreme heat during summer. Here, summer months are extremely dry and arid, with day temperatures normally ranging between 45 degrees and 48 degrees Celsius, making it one of the hottest regions of central India. Gondia and Wardha also experience extremely hot conditions during April and May.
“The plan was conceived in 2016 and first introduced in the Nagpur Municipal Corporation in 2018. Around the same time, other municipal corporations in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions got a similar task. However, it still remains on paper,” said a senior state government official, who requested anonymity, while speaking on the sidelines of South Asia Heat Health Summit at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) on Friday.
The Heat Action Plan consists of timely heat mitigation measures in accordance with the guidelines issued by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). So far, states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka and Delhi have such plans, implemented by multiple agencies, including State Disaster Management Authority, municipal corporations or councils and health departments, among key ones.
The services are specially pressed in whenever there is a weather warning or an ongoing heatwave event.
During a heatwave event, the maximum temperature is more than 45 degrees Celsius over the plains and 37 degrees Celsius in hilly regions. Heatwaves have also become common over a larger geographical area in the country, besides being reported across more months in a year.
“Earlier, heatwaves were restricted to Rajasthan or northern India and would be reported during April and May. However, in recent times, these instances are being reported as early as March and up to June. Besides, heatwaves are affecting northeast and central India regions too,” said A K Sahai, senior IITM scientist and head of Monsoon Mission of India.
Since it was introduced, the Heat Action Plan has helped reduce deaths caused by heat-related ailments and heat strokes during the summer months. For instance, there were more than 2,040 heat-related deaths in India in 2015, which have dropped to under 300 in 2019, as per the NDMA.
According to the state government official, another challenge in implementing the Heat Action Plan in Maharashtra is due to the prolonged unavailability of health chiefs or senior-ranked health authorities at municipal corporations.
“Rolling out effective and timely measures during a heatwave incident becomes difficult when there are no health department chiefs or senior officials available. Either they are frequently posted out or some other authority is holding additional charge, which derails effective planning,” the official added.
According to the NDMA, the number of states and districts affected by heatwave is rising constantly (See box).
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