Mysteries of Mumbai’s Magic Chapter 2: It’s a Hot Mess

India could become one of the hottest places on Earth in just a decade, experiencing heat waves beyond human survivability limits. Labour productivity and economic growth, heavily reliant on outdoor work, will be directly impacted with this climate crisis. In Mumbai, the rising heat is already taking its toll and the recent tragedy in Kharghar shows the city's lack of preparedness. We at the Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, see the need for a comprehensive and localised Heat Action Plan to safeguard the well-being and sustainable well being of the city’s residents.

The MCAP, while a positive stride in climate-change action, falls short when it comes to confronting and managing heat stress related issues. When it comes to putting together a Heat Action Plan (HAP), the voices and needs of the most vulnerable communities are key but missing. With this in mind, chapter two of our series Mysteries of Mumbai’s Magic took a twofold approach to solution-finding. The session began by exploring where Mumbai lies in terms of Heat Stress, its challenges, discussing viable options and solutions through an expert panel discussion. The panel included Dr. Kamal Murari - Chair, Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Studies, School of Habitat Studies, TISS Mumbai who shed light on the global scenario around weather phenomena like El Niño, the role of climate change in increasing heat, and the lack of policy action to address the heat stress in Mumbai. He collated and explained some great examples from across the globe and India. Ms. Debdatta Chakraborty - PhD Scholar at the Interdisciplinary Program in Climate Studies, IIT-Bombay spoke about her research on heat stress among vulnerable communities and shared some great insights on its everyday and long-term impact. Dr. Parth Sharma, MBBS Physician and researcher, also spoke to the audience on the health interventions required to combat heat stress.

Some key observations and takeaways from this session are:

When the sea surface temperature rises too much in the Pacific Ocean, it blocks moisture from the Pacific region towards the monsoon region, which is India, China and ASEAN countries, which may cause severe drought and heat stress in the affected area.

The health of women workers is particularly at risk due to occupational heat exposures and inadequate sanitation facilities at many Indian workplaces.

To deal with the adverse effects of the heat, people vulnerable to heat need to drink much water at regular intervals and include much fibre in their food and the government should make areas in the city where they can take a quick stop for the shade.

This was followed by an empathy map workshop where participants map the heat touch points for vulnerable groups throughout their day and laid out recommendations for heat stress management. By tracing a day in the lives of auto-rickshaw drivers, domestic help, schoolchildren, fishermen, and construction workers, workshop participants were asked to plot points of direct heat stress exposure and encouraged to find solutions. Some recommendations that came up from the workshop were:

Individual-level Recommendations: Plan routes with rest and shaded areas, carry food and a large water bottle for hydration, prioritise health check-ups, and plan work schedules around the heat.

Ecosystem-level Recommendations: Housing societies and work unions can raise awareness on combating heat stress, reschedule work routines within families, or strive for dual incomes, and local NGOs can support with food and hydration drives.

Government-level Recommendations: Subsidise cooling facilities and shelters, implement a Heat Tax for auto rides during peak hours, collaborate with unions to regulate working hours, provide water stations and public washrooms, include heat stress in national policies and insurance schemes, and improve communication of heat alerts to auto rickshaw drivers.

View the recording of the event -