KSDMA to collaborate with WRI to implement heat action plan in Kerala

Amid a rise in average day temperature in Kerala during summer, the State government has permitted the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) to collaborate with the World Resources Institute (WRI), an NGO, on mainstreaming sustainable cooling practices across the State by implementing the recommendation of the Kerala State Heat Action Plan and India Cooling Action Plan.

As part of the project, the KSDMA is also exploring the possibility of making use of the expertise of the WRI to identify communities vulnerable to the growing heat stress by working with local self-government institutions (LSGI) in the State. A study and survey will be conducted to assess the condition of informal settlements and Anganwadis in the State to assess vulnerability.

Study and survey

According to KSDMA sources, the study and survey will benefit KSDMA in implementing the State action plan and planning for new programmes and policies to address the heat stress issues. The terms and conditions regarding the survey and study, including the agreement and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) related to intellectual property, roles and responsibilities, timelines and outputs, etc. will be finalised soon. The action plan suggests various strategies, including cool roofs, cool pavements, and incentives for switching to environment-friendly building materials, to reduce the rising heat stress.

The action plan also suggests a host of short and long-term strategies including eco-friendly construction methods, afforestation, green roofs, white-topped surfaces instead of black surfaces which contribute to urban heat island effects, etc. The KSDMA has also initiated steps to update the action plan by identifying the temperature threshold of different regions across the State and revising the action plan accordingly.

The maximum day temperature, especially in summer, has been between 3 to 4° Celsius higher than normal in parts of Kerala for the past few years. It was in 2016 that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the first time officially declared a heatwave in Kerala. In IMD parlance, a heatwave is declared if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C in the plains, at least 37°C in coastal areas and at least 30°C in hill regions; and the departure from normal is at least 4.5°C. Kerala is generally considered a coastal State by the IMD. So a departure of 4.5°C after the ceiling mark of 37°C will be considered for declaring heatwave, according to sources.

Further, with the moisture level in the air relatively high in Kerala due to its proximity to the Arabian Sea, the heat index (also known as ‘real feel’ temperature) often crosses the 50° C mark in many places during summer. If the humidity level is over 50% and the temperature is around 35° C in a locality, the heat index will be around 41° C in that area, posing a serious health risk.

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