Govt eyes early alert system to check impact of heatwave

ByJayashree Nandi, , New Delhi
Mar 13, 2023 01:57 AM IST

The ministry of earth sciences is working on issuing location-based heatwave warnings with five days lead time this summer through the common alerting protocol of the National Disaster Management Authority, which will provide the alerts to various state and centre level disaster alert disseminating authorities.

As summer sets in across the country, the central government is working on an early warning system for heatwaves that will alert people at specific locations at least five days in advance to mitigate the impact of heat stress, a top official said.

Under the common alerting protocol, agencies such as the Met department, Central Water Commission and Forest Survey of India, among others, issue warnings to disseminating agencies like cellular networks, radio and television stations and other mass dissemination channels. The workflow is monitored by the disaster management authorities. (HT)
Under the common alerting protocol, agencies such as the Met department, Central Water Commission and Forest Survey of India, among others, issue warnings to disseminating agencies like cellular networks, radio and television stations and other mass dissemination channels. The workflow is monitored by the disaster management authorities. (HT)

The ministry of earth sciences is working on issuing location-based heatwave warnings with five days lead time this summer through the common alerting protocol of the National Disaster Management Authority, which will provide the alerts to various state and centre level disaster alert disseminating authorities.

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Also Read: IMD warns of a severe summer, more heatwaves in most parts

“A large number of people, ministries and state level departments are already registered with the NDMA and IMD. Those who haven’t registered can register with us to get a warning five days in advance for heatwaves, which will then roll for next five days. This will also come with do’s and don’ts during a heatwave,” said M Ravichandran, secretary, ministry of earth sciences.

It may be possible to issue heatwave warnings in India up to seven days in advance, which can play an important role in mitigating impacts on extreme heat, according to new research by the Indian Meteorological Department and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology published in American Geophysical Union’s Advancing Earth and Space Science, a peer-reviewed journal, on March 8.

“The focus will be on preventing impacts of heat stress. As per the current regulations, we cannot send a warning message to a user without them registering with us, so the authorities will pass on the message to the general public,” Ravichandran said.

Also Read: Season’s 1st heatwave alert issued already, for Kutch, Konkan regions

Under the common alerting protocol, agencies such as the Met department, Central Water Commission and Forest Survey of India, among others, issue warnings to disseminating agencies like cellular networks, radio and television stations and other mass dissemination channels. The workflow is monitored by the disaster management authorities.

“We have created products this time that are meant to prepare people for heatwaves, particularly colour coded bulletins,” said M Mohapatra, director general of the weather bureau. “These will be provided to all state authorities and to the common alerting protocol. Video bulletins are also being provided in local languages.”

To boost preparedness in the hot season, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting on March 6 has asked for awareness material to be prepared for different stakeholders, including citizens, medical professionals, municipal and panchayat authorities, disaster response teams like firefighters and schools, among others. Modi also asked the weather office to issue daily forecasts in a manner that is easily interpreted and disseminated.

The plan for wider dissemination of heatwave warnings comes on the back of the Met department’s long range forecast of above normal temperatures over most parts of the country and a higher frequency of heatwaves in March, April and May.

Recent research has established that heatwave frequency and intensity is rising in India, said M Rajeevan, former secretary, ministry of earth sciences. A 2016 paper published in Science Advances in 2017 concluded that southern and western India experienced 50% more heatwave events during 1985-2009 than in the previous 25 years. Previous studies from India have suggested that a small increase in mean temperature and heatwave duration causes a noticeable increase in mortality rate.

A functional heat warning system on a smaller scale is working in Gujarat and has been effective in saving many lives, an expert said.

In 2010, Ahmedabad experienced one of its worst heatwaves, with temperatures surpassing 48 degrees Celsius for nearly a week, killing 800 people, according to Dr Dileep Mavalankar, head of the Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation then partnered with the institute and the Natural Resources Defence Council in the US, a non-profit, to develop India’s first heat action plan.

“Every year, we are able to prevent at least 40% of deaths during summer months with our plan,” Dr Mavalankar said. In Ahmedabad’s action plan, temperature forecasts trigger a heat alert, which is automatically sent to the state’s nodal officer, who declares a heat alert. Simultaneously, alerts are sent to the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, the state’s surveillance unit, NGOs, community health groups and the All-India Disaster Mitigation Institute to help reach those vulnerable to heat stress.

Announcements on media follow. Homeless are moved to shelters during this period and temporary cooling points are set up across the city for people working outdoors.

“It is like a well-oiled machine now and each agency knows what they need to do when the temperatures reach a certain level. In Ahmedabad, we have seen that once you have a proper system in place, the logging of heat-related mortalities also gets better and this data further helps you to prevent deaths,” Dr Mavalankar said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Soumya Pillai covers environment and traffic in Delhi. A journalist for three years, she has grown up in and with Delhi, which is often reflected in the stories she does about life in the city. She also enjoys writing on social innovations.

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