India: How to deal with extreme heat: Move beyond emergency mode
By Tarun Gopalakrishnan
As emissions continue to rise, India will suffer from warming worse than the rest of the planet — the global average temperature increase since 1900 is around 1.3 degrees Celsius; in India, the average temperature increase in the same period has already crossed 2°C.
These new realities have resulted in planning targeted at extreme heat. In India, at least 30 cities across 11 states have adopted such plans, a trend which began with Ahmedabad’s ‘Heat Action Plan’ in 2013.
As average temperatures continue to rise, cities will have to move away from planning for heatwaves as ‘events’.
The aim, as far-fetched as it currently seems, has to be to design cities that are cooler than their surroundings. Crucially, this should not be achieved through air-conditioning, an inequitable solution which cools the interiors of a few while driving up the ambient temperature for most.
Cooling cities will require a transition away from heat-absorbent materials, towards the use of alternative construction materials and technologies. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat is aimed at such a transition, but it is unclear whether it is setting the right goals.
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