Home / News / India /  Heatwave planning shouldn’t ignore slums

Ahmedabad came up with a “heat action plan" after over 1,300 people died in a heatwave in the city in May 2010. The plan was to issue timely warnings and help citizens take emergency as well as long-term steps to counter heatwaves. The strategy reportedly saves hundreds of lives every year.

But a recent paper questions the plan’s success, saying it is failing the most vulnerable group in the city: its slum residents. The research author, Maryam Nastar of Sweden’s Lund University, says 20-30% of Ahmedabad’s population lives in slums and chawls. Because many of them are not part of official records, they are left out of most planning.

For instance, part of the heat plan is to send heatwave warnings over email, social media and SMSes. But to get these alerts, people need smartphones or computers with an internet connection, which many in slums don’t have. Also, the literacy rate in the slums is said to be under 60%, so residents may not gain much from the alerts sent in this manner.

There are also problems with access to water. A survey of slum homes found 86% had piped water supply, but most of them get water only in the mornings. Residents without piped water and those relying on public taps are under even more stress during heatwaves.

Most low-income residents live in eastern Ahmedabad, which has fewer green spaces than the western part where high-income groups live. Trees and vegetation help bring down temperatures. However, the heat plan hasn’t reduced the uneven distribution of green spaces between the eastern and western parts.

The author chose Ahmedabad for the study because of its pioneering role in heat planning. The issues the city faces in caring for its most vulnerable is a cautionary tale for other cities hoping to adopt similar plans.

Also read: “Message Sent, Now What? A Critical Analysis of the Heat Action Plan in Ahmedabad, India"

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