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Almost 90 Per Cent Of Indians More Vulnerable To Public Health Issues, Food Shortages And Increased Risks To Deaths: Study

The study is the first to include a “heat index” to measure the recurring impacts of Indian heat waves on the country’s population. The index measures how hot the human body feels relative to the surrounding conditions when humidity and air temperature are added together

Almost 90 Per Cent Of Indians More Vulnerable To Public Health Issues, Food Shortages And Increased Risks To Deaths: Study
Long-term predictions show that the heat waves will affect more than 300 million people by 2050 and lower the quality of life for almost 600 million Indians by 2100

London: Almost 90 per cent of Indians are more vulnerable to public health issues, food shortages and increased risks to deaths due to the deadly heat waves fuelled by climate change in 2022, research by the University of Cambridge revealed on Thursday (April 20). The study, published in the ‘PLOS Climate’ journal at a time when several parts of India are already in the throes of rising temperatures, points out that India currently uses a national Climate Vulnerability Indicator (CVI) to measure climate vulnerability and make plans for the adaptation.

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The CVI includes different socioeconomic, biophysical, institutional, and infrastructural factors but it doesn’t have a physical risk indicator for heat waves, which it warns is a key missing factor that would help policymakers consider how extreme heat actually impacts the Indian population. Report’s first author Dr. Ramit Debnath, Cambridge Zero Fellow at the University of Cambridge, said,

A heat stress measure which identifies the impacts and the parts of India where the population is most vulnerable to recurring heat waves would help to make state Heat Action Plans being created across India more effective. So, we could figure out how extreme heat really affects people and in which parts of the country.

The study is the first to include a “heat index” to measure the recurring impacts of Indian heat waves on the country’s population. The index measures how hot the human body feels relative to the surrounding conditions when humidity and air temperature are added together.

It suggests that the CVI underestimates the main risks and threats of heat waves to the Indian population because it does not include any kind of heat stress measure. This missing element also makes it harder to identify areas of the country, like Delhi and other larger urban areas that are most vulnerable. Co-author Dr Ronita Bardhan, Associate Professor of Sustainable Built Environment at the University of Cambridge, said,

Delhi’s heat vulnerability will exaggerate indoor overheating, especially for those people in affordable housing who have fewer resources to cool themselves. Social cooling practices need to be understood to mitigate and adapt to heat-related health and energy burdens.

Researchers used publicly available data on state-level climate vulnerability indicators from the Indian government’s National Data & Analytics Platform to classify severity categories. They then compared India’s progress on its UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over 20 years between 2001 and 2021 with extreme weather-related deaths during that period.

Results showed that India’s global ranking according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Group has gone down in the last two decades because it hasn’t met 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, all of which were important for SDG 13 (Climate Action). Previous studies have shown that India’s frequent heat waves are a growing burden on its economy and public health resources.

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Long-term predictions show that the heat waves will affect more than 300 million people by 2050 and lower the quality of life for almost 600 million Indians by 2100. But there has not been enough focus on their short-term effects and the plans for dealing with heat waves, the research warns.

The study also found that not having a physical risk measure for heat waves can slow progress in SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

On a smaller scale, a case study of urban sustainability by the researchers found that residents of Delhi endured some of the most difficult conditions, with almost all of the National Capital Region (NCR) hitting danger levels on the index during a heat wave. Its suggested solutions include improved measurement, preventing overheating of low-income housing, building heat wave resilience partnerships, and learning from international action plans.

The research was supported in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Quadrature Climate Foundation, the Laudes Foundation, the Keynes Fund and the Africa Alborado Grant.

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(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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