With rising mercury levels, Telangana prepares heatwave action plan

Telangana is highly vulnerable to heatwaves owing to its geographic and topographical context, as it is located in India’s core heatwave zone.
A representative image of a boy drinking water from a bottle and the sun in the background
A representative image of a boy drinking water from a bottle and the sun in the background
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With mercury levels rising across Telangana, the Telangana State Development Planning Society (TSDPS) has prepared a heatwave action plan. The action plan includes guidelines and steps to be followed by state and district officials to minimise the impact of the heatwave.

Telangana is highly vulnerable to heatwaves owing to its geographic and topographical context, as it is located in India’s core heatwave zone. According to the TSDPS, as many as 568 out of the 589 mandals are vulnerable to heatwaves.

In 2015, 541 people lost their lives due to heatwave conditions in Telangana. After relevant steps were taken by the government and concerned officials, the numbers substantially reduced in the following years. In 2020, a total of 9 deaths were reported due to the heatwave conditions.

Adilabad, Nirmal, Jagtial, Komaram Bheem, Asifabad, Mancherial, Peddapalli, Karimnagar, Warangal, Mulugu, Khammam, Suryapet, Mahabubabad and Nalgonda districts in the state are highly vulnerable to heatwaves. According to the data analysed by TSDPS for 2014 to 2020, all the above districts had experienced 21-40 heatwaves days in a year.

Daily wage labourers like construction workers, street vendors, etc are among the poor and marginalised who are adversely impacted by heatwaves.

It was in 2016 that the Telangana government prepared a heatwave action plan per the directions of the High Court and based on the guidelines issued by the NDMA. This year, Telangana has formed a 12-member committee to prepare a comprehensive Heatwave Action Plan based on the guidelines from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Here are the highlights of the heatwave action plan:

State level

1) Heatwave warnings should be given publicity by the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA). Information to be disseminated through social media and traditional media.

2) The Education Department must reschedule school timings to avoid hot weather. Schools may start early and close before noon or as per the local climatic conditions.

3) Municipal administrations and Urban Development Department and Panchayati Raj institutions must set up large-scale drinking water stations at public places.

4) Shelters must be provided for MGNREGA and construction workers. Their working hours need to be rescheduled.

5) The State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) can be used for capacity building and mitigation activities.

District level

1) District Collectors will hold regular press conferences on the risks and dangers of heat-related illnesses.

2) Activated ‘cooling centres’ to be set up at important locations like bus stands, malls, public buildings, etc.

3) NGOs and community groups wanting to provide drinking water and buttermilk to the public must be encouraged.

Department level

The Revenue Department will be heading the efforts to fight the heatwave conditions.

1) The Department will coordinate with all concerned departments and agencies.

2) Impact reports will be collected on a daily and monthly basis.

3) The Department will submit consolidated heatwave impact data and best practices to the NDMA.

Apart from these three levels, each department has been given guidelines to take appropriate steps to minimise the impact of the heatwave conditions.

The Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department should concentrate on providing cattle troughs with safe drinking water and also ensure that the impact is less on the aquaculture industry and fish farming. The Transport Department has to change bus timings to avoid journeys during peak hours. Police personnel need to be provided cool jackets and shades as they are more exposed to the heatwave. The Electricity Department needs to ensure repair and maintenance work is carried out to ensure uninterrupted power supply. Load shedding needs to be rescheduled to avoid peak heat hours.

What is a heatwave?

Different countries define heatwaves differently in context of the prevailing local conditions. In India, a heatwave condition is declared if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for plains, 37°C or more for coastal areas and at least 30°C or more for hilly regions. When the departure from normal temperature is 4.5°C to 6.4°C it is considered as a heat wave condition. When the departure is more than 6.4°C from normal temperature it is considered as a severe heat wave condition.

Exposure to extreme heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, loss of consciousness and other medical emergencies. In some cases, it can also lead to death. Heatwaves can aggravate pre-existing comorbidities in people, and can lead to physiological stress too.

How is an action plan made?

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) provides forecast reports and weather data to the TSDPS. These reports are analysed and then based on the NDMA’s guidelines, the action plan is formulated. The government’s various departments work in coordination with the IMD, TSDPS, UNICEF, etc to ensure that the impact of the heatwave is mitigated.

In the heatwave plan formulated for this year, Rahul Bojja, Secretary to Government, Revenue Disaster Management Department, mentioned how the plan can help prepare for and minimise the impact.

“Prior information about the possible heatwave conditions will help in taking precautionary action, also the government agencies to be vigilant and allow them to plan outreach activities to save the lives of the humans and animals. As per the IMD and TSDPS heatwave criteria, a total of 568 mandals are vulnerable to and more than 13 million people fall in severe, critical and semi-critical heatwave zones in the state of Telangana. The government of Telangana has embarked on a positive note to reduce the fatalities and casualties that occur due to heatwave conditions,” it reads.

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