Climate change-induced heat risks for migrant populations working at brick kilns in India: a transdisciplinary approach

Karin Lundgren-Kownacki, Pernille Gooch, Marwa Dabaieh, Latha Anandh, Vidhya Venugopal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the summer of 2015, India was hit by a scorching heat wave that melted pavements in Delhi and caused thousands of deaths, mainly among the most marginalized populations. One such group facing growing heat risks from both occupational and meteorological causes are migrant brick kiln workers. This study evaluates both current heat risks and the potential future impacts of heat caused by climate change, for the people working at brick kilns in India. A case study of heat stress faced by people working at brick kilns near Chennai, India, is the anchor point around which a transdisciplinary approach was applied. Around Chennai, the situation is alarming since occupational heat exposure in the hot season from March to July is already at the upper limits of what humans can tolerate before risking serious impairment. The aim of the study was to identify new pathways for change and soft solutions by both reframing the problem and expanding the solution space being considered in order to improve the quality of life for the migrant populations at the brick kilns. Technical solutions evaluated include the use of sun-dried mud bricks and other locally “appropriate technologies” that could mitigate the worsening of climate change-induced heat. Socio-cultural solutions discussed for empowering the people who work at the brick kilns include participatory approaches such as open re-localization, and rights-based approaches including the environmental sustainability and the human rights-based approach framework. Our analysis suggests that an integrative, transdisciplinary approach could incorporate a more holistic range of technical and socio-culturally informed solutions in order to protect the health of people threatened by India’s brick kiln industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-358
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Issue number3
Early online date2017 Nov 30
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Environmental Health and Occupational Health
  • Climate Research

Free keywords

  • Brick kilns
  • Climate change
  • Heat stress
  • India
  • Migrant work
  • Technical and socio-cultural solutions
  • Transdisciplinary approach


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