This nonprofit claims to use Microsoft’s Ai tools to help vulnerable people fight climate change



SEEDs, founded in 2017 by Anshu Sharma, is a recipient of Microsoft’s AI for Humanitarian Action grant. The non-profit organization said it has developed an AI model to predict the impact of cyclones, earthquakes or heat waves in a given area.

SEEDS, a New Delhi-based non-profit disaster response and preparedness organization, has deployed artificial intelligence-based tools in collaboration with Microsoft India to help the most vulnerable combat the effects of climate change. Just a few months ago, India was reeling from an unprecedented heat wave.

SEEDs, founded in 2017 by Anshu Sharma, is a recipient of Microsoft’s AI for Humanitarian Action grant. The non-profit organization said it has developed an AI model to predict the impact of cyclones, earthquakes or heat waves in a given area.

Heat waves, in particular, are a cause for concern and researchers say they have a disproportionate effect on some of the world’s poorest communities. In fact, researchers say that the country’s slums are exposed to more heat than other parts of any city up to 6°C.

“In the slums, houses are often made of tin foil, which heats up much faster than other materials,” says Anshu Sharma.

Sharma says Sunny Lives has generated heat wave risk information for about 1.25 lakh of slum dwellers in New Delhi and Nagpur – two cities susceptible to intense heat waves.

According to Sharma, if you don’t live in a home made with the right kind of materials, it could be hotter inside than outside.

“Let’s say the temperature outside is around 38°C,” she explains, “if you’re in a tin shack in a slum, the temperature inside can reach 45°C. And those are the elderly and young children, who spend the day indoors, who suffer.

Most houses built in Indian slums are made of makeshift building materials that trap more heat. In addition, roofs are often made of metal sheets and houses are crammed together without windows or ventilation, Sharma explains.

In mid-May, India’s meteorological service reported record high temperatures of between 45°C (113°F) and 50°C (122°F) in several parts of the country. With climate change upon us, experts say we need to prepare for more intense heat waves in the years to come.

According to a study published in the journal Weather and Climate Extremes last year, India experienced more than double the number of heat waves between 2000 and 2019 than between 1980 and 1999.

“In the future, these kinds of heat waves will become normal,” Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in a recent report.

Sharma says SEEDS’ biggest challenge was quantifying the dangers of a heat wave because, unlike cyclones, floods or earthquakes, the effects of a heat wave are invisible. communicate the dangers of a heat wave. Unlike floods, earthquakes or cyclones, the impact of a heat wave is not exactly visible.

According to Sharma, SEEDS uses the Sunny Lives AI model to provide a risk map for a particular area. On the map, each building is color-coded according to its “risk score”, which is calculated using bthe building density, the vegetation, the building’s proximity to a body of water and the type of roof.

This risk map, Sharma says, can be overlaid on a regular map on a smartphone, making it convenient for volunteers in the field.

Additionally, to raise awareness, Sharma says SEEDS organizes quizzes, competitions and group discussions with the help of schools, NGOs and volunteer groups, which go door-to-door all over Delhi.

“People don’t care if we tell them the risk score is five for your home,” said Mridula Garg, urban and built environment manager at SEEDS. “But incorporating all of the messages into our quiz really helped. We got them to answer questions about their home environment and helped them come up with their own risk scores.

Over the past two years, SEEDS claims to have reached 23 slum communities in East Delhi with this participatory approach. Their first point of contact was school children, who are generally more receptive to new information and bubbling with ideas.

Now that it has a workable model, SEEDS is scaling up its efforts and engaging with various Indian state governments to scale up its model to middle and high income areas. At the COP-26 summit last year, India pledged to become carbon neutral by 2070.

“Governments are now asking us to extend our AI model to provide a science-based approach to reduce carbon footprint and carbon emissions,” Sharma said. “So we also apply the model in other residential areas, on these flat concrete roofs (of multi-storey buildings) and examine what kind of increase in energy consumption will occur in the event of a heat wave and how we can reduce that.”

What started as a disaster response organization is now moving towards addressing the looming issue of climate change. This work could potentially have global applications.


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