Indian cities urged to develop heat action plans as temperatures soar

Many parts of India are experiencing heat wave conditions, which typically occur in the pre-monsoon period from April to June, with temperature hovering above 45 degree Celsius. (AP)
Updated 14 June 2019

Indian cities urged to develop heat action plans as temperatures soar

  • At least 36 people have died from a heatwave this year
  • The nation’s capital Delhi recorded its highest-ever temperature of 48 degrees Celsius

BANGKOK: Indian cities need to implement heat action plans that include text-message alerts and cooling stations, to minimize deaths and illnesses related to rising temperatures, climate change experts and human rights activists said on Friday.
At least 36 people have died from a heatwave this year, with the nation’s capital Delhi recording its highest-ever temperature of 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit), and temperatures in Churu in Rajasthan state hitting 51C.
Cities experience higher temperatures because paved surfaces and the lack of tree cover cause “urban heat islands,” said Sayantan Sarkar, who helped implement India’s first Heat Action Plan (HAP) in Ahmedabad in 2013.
“Cities bear the brunt of a heatwave because they are so densely populated, and because the effects are more pronounced,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But not all cities have the capacity to implement the measures needed, and the lack of comprehensive medical records makes it harder to target vulnerable groups such as the homeless and migrant workers,” he said.
Heatwaves in India typically occur in the pre-monsoon period from April to June.
Ahmedabad implemented its HAP after a heatwave in 2010 caused more than 1,300 heat-related deaths.
The plan included an early warning system using electronic displays in public places and text messages, training medical personnel to recognize and respond to heat-related illnesses, and “cool roofs” that used reflective surfaces or coatings to reduce temperatures in low-income and informal housing.
Since its launch, the HAP has helped prevented about 1,100 deaths each year in Ahmedabad, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health last year.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued guidelines in 2016 for heat action plans based on the Ahmedabad plan. They have since been adopted in more than a dozen states, said Arup Kumar Srivastava, a heatwave expert at NDMA.
“The casualties would be much higher were it not for the heat action plans that many cities have adopted,” he said.
“This year, night-time temperatures have also remained high, which poses additional risks. So the plans need to be modified accordingly,” he said.
A critical feature of Ahmedabad’s HAP is checking on vulnerable populations including the homeless and slum dwellers.
This is particularly relevant in cities such as Delhi, which has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN).
At least six homeless people probably died from the heat every day from May 1 to June 10 this year in Delhi, with several more deaths going unreported, according to HLRN.
“Homeless persons are most vulnerable to the heat, as the majority live outdoors and do not have access to adequate shelter, drinking water and health care,” said Chaudhry.
“The city has a winter plan for the homeless, which includes setting up temporary tents, but there is no similar effort in the summer — even though they suffer as much, if not more in the severe heat,” she said.
Delhi government officials said in April they are preparing an action plan to minimize the impact of extreme weather conditions including heatwaves, which will be ready in 2020.


Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

Updated 9 min 20 sec ago

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.