Extreme heat risk among informal sector workers based on perception in Nagpur, India

This research is carried out by Dr. Rajashree Kotharkar1, Sagar Rajopadhye1, Sanyukta Shaw1   with funding support from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.

The frequency and intensity of climate change phenomena such as heatwaves are increasing which puts a large portion of India’s unorganised informal sector, exposed to high ambient working temperatures, at increased risk for mortality and morbidity. These negative consequences can be mitigated when the risk is perceived by the workers, coping mechanisms are understood, and appropriate adaptive measures are implemented. The study adopted a mixed-method approach (qualitative and quantitative surveys), i.e., using in-situ micrometeorological data to evaluate the outdoor thermal comfort, an onsite subjective survey to assess human thermal sensation, and a self-reported heat risk assessment for evaluating the heat risk perception. The heat risk perception was measured using a construct called the heat risk perception (HRP) index and it was found that the mean of the index was high, indicating a high HRP. The workers exhibited high sensitivity to heat, as well as a high level of heat tolerance. As a result, adaptive measures such as lifestyle changes and protective behaviours, as well as physical interventions at work, were widely implemented. The study was able to demonstrate statistically significant associations between heat risk perception and adaptive measures, suggesting that risk perception is a necessary antecedent for protective behaviours and coping mechanisms. Self-perceived vulnerability to heat impacts was an important predictor of high HRP, especially evident in cases where a chronic illness was preexisting.

Though most respondents were familiar with heat waves based on their previous experiences, they lacked scientific knowledge due to limited access to training and awareness programmes, resulting in low awareness regarding new and elevated heat risks. It is important to recognize that they are more vulnerable than before, and failure to take adaptive measures on a regular basis could result in elevated health and economic risk. Thus, ULBs must orient their efforts towards raising risk perception and informing them of potential risks posed by global warming and climate change. Additionally, since each vulnerability is unique and based on local circumstances, changes need to be made in programs like Heat Action Plans (HAPs), so that it caters to each vulnerable group differently.

  1. Department of Architecture and Planning, Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India.

India Heat Perceptions Research by R.Kotharkar 2022

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