The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that by the end of this century, South Asia will be one of the “hardest-hit” regions by heat stress and “deadly” heat events. This year, the average maximum temperature in Northwest India and in the country as a whole in March, as well as in Northwest and Central India in April was the highest in 122 years. Other areas in South Asia are also witnessing heatwaves. The writing is on the wall that we might already be at a critical threshold of global warming.
There is now an urgent need to build resilience to heat stress. In this context, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, South Asia, have jointly developed and launched reports of a study conducted to identify heat threshold and heat hotspots in Nepalgunj (Nepal) and Rajshahi (Bangladesh), under the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) – Knowledge Accelerator programme. Additionally, policy briefs and IEC materials (posters and videos) have been developed to improve the cities’ resilience and preparedness around extreme heat events.
Cities are particularly vulnerable to extreme heatwaves. Rapid urbanisation and associated impacts, including increasing concrete infrastructure, deforestation, filling up of water bodies, increasing amounts of dry and impervious surfaces, diverse economic activities, and the adverse impacts of climate change, all serve to exacerbate the heat island effect in cities.
The reports on the heat study in Nepalgunj and Rajshahi aim to build stakeholders’ capacity in taking appropriate actions by determining the heat thresholds, which indicate ‘when to act’ and also identify the heat hotspots to help understand ‘where to act’ before or during the heatwave days. Similarly, the policy briefs for Nepalgunj and Rajshahi recommend actions to deal with acute heat events and to build resilience against increasing heat stress. The additional funding for these activities was leveraged through the Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate programme, with financial aid from the UK government and technical assistance from the UK Met office. The German Red Cross and Norwegian Red Cross provided additional resources to make the initiatives more inclusive.
The RCCC has also developed a guidance note on Early Warning Early Actions (EWEA) in Secondary Cities in South Asia, with support from CDKN Asia, German Red Cross, and Norwegian Red Cross. The note aims to support city authorities, emergency service providers, and community-based organisations in implementing EWEA mechanisms and also provides reference notes and comprehensive overviews.
The RCCC has also partnered with Resurgence Urban Impact Ltd. to develop a practical guide on heat communication for cities in South Asia, with support from CDKN Asia and Norwegian Red Cross. Designed primarily for city government staff who develop and implement adaptation and response strategies to reduce the impacts of extreme heat, the guide will help them to understand the key components of an effective public communication plan: access, relevance, understanding, and action. A set of recommended actions is included in each section. The guide can also be used by other organisations and institutions that work on reducing heat impacts through large-scale communication.