Process Paper


Community resilience for heat stress: Experience from Surat city (India)

“Surat was never hot like this!”
“This is the hottest summer I have ever seen”
“I just avoid going out in afternoons, it is too hot outside”

Summer 2016 has repeatedly heard such exclamations from citizens of Surat (a coastal city of India). Global temperature rise has already started shooting its local effects. India witnessed highest temperature records in years 2015 and 2016. In case of coastal cities like Surat, not only heat but humidity too plays a vital role. well-being of citizens economy of the city is at risk due to high heat index.

2016 is the year for Phase I piloting of “ Heat and health Action plan – Surat” by the Health department of Urban Local Body (Surat Municipal Corporation-SMC) . This action plan is the first coastal city action plan in India prepared by Urban Health & Climate Resilience Centre (UHCRC) .

How can community lag behind in action when heat is churning up health of the city? The efforts of system are being complimented by “community resilience” which is shaping up . Community resilience is nothing but people’s capacity to cope with problems. Efforts to build community resilience can strengthen people’s social networks, enhance their knowledge and skills to deal with threats competently or increase their economic ability to face threats.

1. Resilience through dialogue

Why being “summer season” is loved or hated?
(Opinion poll of citizens health dialogue forum)

72% say We dislike summer because
  • I don’t feel like eating food and appetite lowers.
  • High temperatures result in too much sweating.
  • I feel thirsty a lot.
  • I am not being able to do my work actively and efficiently.
  • Summer brings tiredness and overall it creates discomfort.
  • Physical as well as mental discomfort leads to family tensions.
  • There is desperate need of Air Conditioning (AC).
  • It is difficult for lower economic class to manage in summers.
  • Laziness, stress and health problems like migraines are rampant.
  • Humidity adds to stress.
28% say We like summer because
  • Summer is full of colourful flowers.
  • Some tasks can be done only in summers, say, few agricultural activities, so it is essential.
  • Summer is part of nature’s cycle system and needed for rains.
  • Summer brings fruits like watermelon and mangoes.
  • Thin Indian cotton and khadi cloth wearing is possible in summers.

“Being Indians, we are very fortunate to have specified distinction of annum into three seasons- summer, monsoons and winter. Above all, we also have vegetables, food appropriate to season. But, if we continue to destroy the environment with our activities, we will lose this natural wealth.”

- The common opinion from dialogue forum

2. Resilience through creative education

U-turn is a community initiative that takes place in Surat every Sunday morning where people gather at a particular street of city and practice music, sports and fitness exercise activities in groups. U-turn is organized by group of NGOs and Surat Municipal Corporation.

People are creative & creativity can be triggered in creative ways for resilience

Dear Sun,
Please go to “Settings”>”Display”>”Brightness”
Lower your brightness!
Please! It is too hot to handle

I have not changed my settings! Please go to your settings!
What will be the Sun’s reply???
Few answers by participants
Save environment
Plant more trees
Chill & be cool
Arrange tree plantation drives

Surtis enjoying photography for heat resilience

Future urban practitioners leading the resilience campaign

Creative writing triggers creative thinking & actions

Bilingual pamphlets for heat health education

U-turn initiative on 22nd May 2016 also witnessed “Heat health education” campaign run by interns at UHCRC – future urban practitioners. Along with traditional means of pamphlets, activities like “creative writing” and “photography for resilience” generated interest and fun element for public. 65 citizens participated, responded and appreciated. The unanimous community opinion was tree plantation is must for Surat and tremendous willingness to participate in tree plantation drives was observed.

3. Resilience through reclaiming traditional wisdom

Fruits of wisdom from senior citizens: Traditional adaptive methods to combat heat in Surat

Diet is essential in fighting with heat stress. Participants enlisted number of food items- Fruits like sweet lime, orange, watermelon, grapes, tomatoes, galeli, Sakartiti (Musk melon) raw sour mango; Salad items like raw onion, cucumber; Drinks like Chhash (buttermilk), Kairi no baflo/ aam panna (raw mango juice), imli panna, kokam panna, jaljeera, lemonade, Nimbu sharbat, coconut water, fresh fruit juices. Diet should contain maximum amount of water. Water should be drunk frequently and in more quantity, especially while going outside.

Participants reported that dressing in loose and thin Indian cotton clothing helps. Use of scarf, caps and goggles, traditional pagdi while going outside is essential. Areas prone to skin infections and heat health hazards should be covered. There should be planning of dressing in summers.

Intra-domestic comfort should be crated with use of Khas made curtains, coolers, fans, air conditioning. Water can be sprinkled outside house in morning and evening to keep space cool. Surat’s heat humidity combination encourages mosquito breeding. Mosquito repellents and nets can be used to avoid mosquito borne diseases. According to people, taking bath more than once in a day is also essential. The practice of spending time in parks and urban green spaces should be followed frequently in summer evenings. First aid knowledge for heat health hazards should be there with community members.

4. Resilience through “Green spaces”

Formation of “Surat Alliance for Urban Agriculture & Resilience (SAUAR)”

SAUAR terrace gardening, kitchen gardening, exhibitions & green space promotion

A multi-stakeholder consortium called “Surat Alliance for Urban Agriculture and Resilience (SAUAR)” was formed by academia, non-governmental organizations in June 2015. Aim of SAUAR is to promote domestic agriculture in the city towards health, nutrition and climate resilience. Activities under SAUAR included citizens trainings, problem-solving and handholding support through social media, city events and exhibitions to promote the idea, peer group formation to ensure sustained interest and documentation of experience. A preliminary follow up study of SAUAR beneficiaries (202 by now) revealed that more than 150 have attempted or are successfully practicing growing domestic vegetable. Majority are using terrace and Balcony space, are satisfied with handholding by technical experts through social media and are in a process of peer promotion.

Activity & description Remark
Formal SAUAR formation event on 5th June 2015 (World Environment Day) Event was attended by more than 100 citizens and the concept of SAUAR was explained through presentations.
Stakeholder engagement through occasional meetings 6 meetings were conducted till date for timely decisions
Formal MOU was signed  
7 trainings were conducted till January 2016 covering 202 participants including general citizens, anganwadi workers and sakhi mandals Trainings were conducted for 3 days
Regular handholding and support to participants through whatsapp Each training batch has formed a whatsapp group where trainers solve querries of those who are attempting the practice.
Participation in 2 city level exhibitions for promotion
Preliminary assessment of practice through interviews of trainees In progress

Note: Urban Health and Climate Resilience Center (UHCRC) is established at Surat in April 2013. UHCRC is functional under Asian City Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) phase II, operationalize through Surat Climate Change Trust (SCCT), under the execution of Health department of Surat Municipal Corporation, is governed by UHCRC Governing board and executed by UHCRC Executive committee.