Heatwave action plan: Break from work and school from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. recommended

In the medium term, the plan recommends a heat spot vulnerability mapping within cities

Published - April 10, 2022 08:43 pm IST - Bengaluru

Children carrying drinking water containers on bicycles at R.T. Nagar in Bengaluru.

Children carrying drinking water containers on bicycles at R.T. Nagar in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Karnataka has come out with an action plan to manage heatwaves — the “silent killer” — this summer. A key strategy among the measures recommended to manage heatwaves is to take a break from all outdoor work, including all forms of labour, MGNREGA work, and classes at educational institutions from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and reschedule work and study hours accordingly.

The strategy will be adopted only for the days when a heatwave is declared in particular taluks and districts and not for the entire season.

The action plan drafted by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Cell (KSNDMC) categorises a departure from normal temperature by more than 4.5° Celcius or an actual maximum temperature of 45° C as a heatwave and 15 districts in north Karnataka have been declared prone to heatwaves. “While the rich often work indoors and can manage the heat with cooling technologies, it is the poor who do physical activities outdoors in the sun who are more vulnerable to heatwaves, making a heatwave action plan all the more important,” said Manoj Rajan, Commissioner, KSNDMC.

“Heatwave deaths are numerous in Telangana, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh, but not in Karnataka, which essentially means we are doing something right. The action plan further builds on these best practices,” Mr. Rajan said. A recent study put the number of heatwave fatalities in the State between 1978 and 2014 at six.

The action plan lists out the responsibilities of each department to mitigate the impact of heatwaves, and puts the district administration in the driver’s seat to manage the wave. Apart from rescheduling work and class hours, the plan recommends setting up of temporary kiosks or “cooling centres” in temples, public buildings, malls, and other spaces for distribution of water, ORS powder/buttermilk, medicines and for shelter; provision of additional fans and other cooling infrastructure in schools, and avoiding outdoor classes and games at schools.

The plan seeks to target vulnerable people such as labourers, MGNREGA workers, and traffic policemen. It recommends they always cover their head and face with a cloth to avoid heatstroke. It also asks hospitals in the area to put in an action plan to deal with cases of heatstroke and related illnesses and consider setting up outreach clinics to help vulnerable sections of people access care easily. 

In the medium term, the plan recommends a heat spot vulnerability mapping within cities. The plan recognises slum pockets and their residents to be one of the most vulnerable during heatwaves. It recommends the adoption of “cool roofs” which include coatings and treatments such as lime-based whitewash, white tarp, white china mosaic tiles, and acrylic resin coating, a cheap and easier option to provide thermal comfort.

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