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
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.