Dust cloud blan­kets north­ern plains, flight ser­vices crip­pled

Dust, thun­der­storms leave 15 dead, 28 in­jured in UP; weather dept says con­di­tions to pre­vail for 3­4 days

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - HT Cor­re­spon­dents

NEWDELHI/LUC­KNOW/CHANDI­GARH: A cloud of dust hung over vast swathes of north In­dian plains for the third day in a row on Thursday, spik­ing the air pol­lu­tion lev­els and prompt­ing au­thor­i­ties to sus­pend civil con­struc­tion works in Delhi and Haryana. It also af­fected flight ser­vices at the Chandi­garh air­port.

In Ut­tar Pradesh, dust and thun­der storms hit var­i­ous parts, leav­ing 15 peo­ple dead and 28 in­jured since Wednesday. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (CPCB) data, the air qual­ity de­te­ri­o­rated be­cause of dust storms in western In­dia, par­tic­u­larly Ra­jasthan.

“Fif­teen peo­ple were killed in dust storm (since Wednesday). Six died in Si­ta­pur, three each in Gonda and Kaushambi and one each in Faiz­abad, Har­doi and Chi­trakoot,” spokesper­son of the Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment said. Be­sides, 17 peo­ple were in­jured in Si­ta­pur and 11 in Faiz­abad, he said.

Weather depart­ment of­fi­cials in Delhi said dusty con­di­tions are likely to pre­vail for an­other 3-4 days and ad­vised peo­ple to avoid stay­ing out­doors for long hours.

Low vis­i­bil­ity led to can­cel­la­tion of all flights to and from Chandi­garh In­ter­na­tional Air­port. “No flight landed or took off from Chandi­garh (air­port) un­til Thursday af­ter­noon due to bad weather,” an of­fi­cial of the Chandi­garh In­ter­na­tional Air­port Lim­ited said.

The Haryana State Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (HSPCB) has is­sued an ad­vi­sory that no con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, hot mix plants and stone crush­ers to be op­er­ated for the next two days. “Delhi and NCR ar­eas and other parts of Haryana have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a se­vere air pol­lu­tion due to dust storm with the PM 2.5 value cross­ing even 500g/m3 and con­sid­er­ably higher PM10 val­ues,” stated the HSPCB ad­vi­sory.

“A veil of dust spread over the plains of Ut­tarak­hand for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive day to­day (Thursday), re­duc­ing the harsh­ness of the sun but adding to hu­mid­ity lev­els.

Strong winds blow­ing from Ra­jasthan and Pun­jab have brought with them both dust and mois­ture, af­fect­ing most of north In­dia, in­clud­ing Ut­tarak­hand and western Ut­tar Pradesh,” MET of­fice di­rec­tor Vikram Singh said in Dehradun.

The Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment has di­rected dis­trict mag­is­trates of af­fected ar­eas to en­sure proper treat­ment of those in­jured and dis­trib­ute re­lief cheques within 24 hours. The Met depart­ment has is­sued warn­ings of thun­der­storm ac­com­pa­nied with squall, dust storm and rain at iso­lated places over east Ut­tar Pradesh.

A pall of haze ob­scured the land­scape in hills of Hi­machal due to dust storm in ad­join­ing plains, but sharp show­ers in the evening cleared the mist in Shimla and ad­join­ing ar­eas.

The lo­cal Met of­fice has warned of thun­der­storm and squall with gusty winds in mid and lower hills from June 15 to 17.

(With agency in­puts)

The unusu­ally high con­cen­tra­tion of par­tic­u­late mat­ter in the last few days in North In­dia clearly shows that air pol­lu­tion is not a sea­sonal prob­lem any­more. As the cli­mate gets warmer and fre­quency of rains re­duces, such spurts in coarse par­ti­cles mak­ing breath­ing dif­fi­cult will be­come a new nor­mal, un­less govern­ments wake up to the alarm.

The In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change’s lat­est as­sess­ment says that planet can bear only up to a 1.5 to 2 de­grees Cel­sius in­crease in tem­per­a­ture from the pre-in­dus­trial era lev­els. The world had al­ready wa- rmed by 0.9 de­grees Cel­sius till 2015 and at the present pace of emis­sions, cli­mate sci­en­tists say, the IPCC mark will get breached lat­est by 2050.

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