Credit: NRDC/Ahmedabad

The impact of heatwaves on lives is not evenly distributed. The most vulnerable people are more likely to work outdoors, live in cramped, informal settlements, live further away from green spaces, and are less able to afford home air conditioning – factors that put them at most risk of heat stress. 

Coupled with the issue of affordability, the energy that cooling solutions like air conditioning uses is also a significant driver of global heating.

Since we have painted the roof, we don’t feel that hot anymore. Our electricity bills are also reduced. Since we painted the house, we feel relaxed, the house feels cool. Whenever my neighbours come to my place, they also express desire of getting their roofs painted.  

Ahmedabad woman resident

The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan, first developed in 2013 by a coalition between the Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC), the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), and the Indian Institute of Public Health – Gandhingar (IIPHG) is an exemplar of how joined-up action can effectively tackle heatwaves in cities for the most vulnerable. 

The plan, which is refined every year, uses a range of tools to let those most at risk of heat-related illness know that danger is imminent. The plan also includes extra steps to supply water to the public, tree-planting, and a ‘cool roof’ initiative targeted at informal settlements to lower indoor temperatures by painting roofs white. The coalition has also facilitated cross-departmental working between public health agencies and the Indian Meteorological Department, leading to a stronger, coordinated response to tackling heatwaves. 

The impact of the plan now extends well beyond Ahmedabad. With the support of NRDC, in 2020 tailored heat action plans have now been replicated in 23 Indian states. The success of the model shared through NRDC’s toolkit and advocacy efforts has also influenced the creation of plans more widely in South East Asia and beyond.  

What’s the impact on customers/beneficiaries?  

There is clear evidence that the plan is having a major impact on the health of Ahmedabad’s citizens. In fact, a 2018 peer-reviewed study found that the plan saves 1,100 lives per year when compared to pre-2013 levels. The most vulnerable members of the public including outdoor construction and industrial workers, street vendors, women, children, and senior citizens, also participated in the initial design of the plan and are actively involved in refining it every year.  

NRDC are also stepping up their support to other states over the next five years to identify the data needed to develop local ‘thresholds’ e.g. pinpointing temperatures that once reached, local action comes into place. The cool roofs programme will also be a key priority over the next five years, and NRDC is working with local cooperatives to expand its work to other states, ensuring people living in informal settlements are not left behind.