A dust storm accompanied by strong winds hit Delhi, on Tuesday, causing reduced visibility and impacting air quality. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts that the dust storm will continue for the next two days. The sudden gusts of wind lifted localised dust particles, exacerbating air pollution in the capital city. The IMD’s daily update states that this dust storm is expected to persist until May 18, primarily affecting isolated pockets in Haryana and Delhi, West Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, as well as parts of Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha.
Why are these dust storms occurring?
The dust storm is a consequence of a powerful anticyclonic trough forming over Northwest India, which is moving eastward. This trough, situated approximately 900 metres above the surface of Delhi, is generating winds with gusts of up to 60 kilometres per hour. These strong winds carry the dust particles into the air. The absence of moisture in the air prevents rainfall despite the formation of the trough. Meteorologists attribute the current dusty conditions in Delhi to a combination of intense heat in northwest India over the past five days, dry soil due to the absence of rainfall, and persistent strong winds for the last few nights.
Harmful effects of dust storms
The dust storm has also resulted in a significant increase in the concentration of PM10. Dust particles, particularly fine particulate matter (PM2.5), can deeply penetrate the respiratory system when inhaled, posing health risks. In addition to the dust storm, Delhi is experiencing soaring temperatures. The maximum temperature is expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius by Sunday. This could further lead to heat strokes and other related illnesses among the vulnerable population.
How to protect yourself during dusty conditions
Stay indoors as much as possible, especially people prone to allergy. If you must go outside, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to reduce inhalation of dust. Also, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed shoes to minimise skin exposure. When indoors, use air purifiers to filter out dust particles and improve indoor air quality. Avoid strenuous activity during this period. This will help to reduce your exposure to pollutants. Drink plenty of fluids. This will help to flush pollutants out of your system. Keep your skin moisturised as it will protect your skin from the effects of pollutants.
Don’t forget to keep your eyes protected. Wear sunglasses or goggles that block out pollutants. If you are driving, slow down and use your headlights. Be prepared to pull over if visibility becomes too low. If you are outside and a dust storm approaches, find shelter immediately. Do not try to outrun the storm. If you have elderly family members, children, or individuals with respiratory conditions, check on them regularly to ensure they are taking necessary precautions and are in a safe environment.