On Sunday, a dust storm that swept through Delhi and then Uttar Pradesh left a scene of colossal destruction in its wake. Forty people lost their lives in the natural disaster, with UP having the highest death toll of eighteen. This marks the second time in May 2018 that such an event has occurred, only this time the storm was widespread and affected other parts of India as well. The states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have also been affected this time. With so many questions on the citizen's mind as to why the storms have gotten so violent this year and how to cope with them, it is very clear that the weather is not getting better anytime soon.

The causes

According to the World Meteorological Organization, a dust storm originates when strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soil into the atmosphere. Therefore, it is common in arid and semi-arid regions. In previous years, trees had been covering a large part of the Indian Subcontinent, which didn't allow the soil to be eroded and the dust storms were weak.

However, increased deforestation and land pollution have left the majority of soil barren. This has been an outcome of overpopulation which is much talked about in India. This allows for more natural uptake of dust into the atmosphere, whenever there is a high-pressure difference. Also, due to the greater amount of dust, the momentum of the storm is increased.

This, combined with the low-pressure trough this year and westerly winds over Jammu and Kashmir, is the reason the Indian Meteorological Department has reported winds of more than 150 Km/hr. Many people blame the IMD for not issuing a warning at the right time, but it is to be noted that such arid regions as are present in North India undergo tremendous change in day-night temperatures, making it difficult to detect the origin of any dust storm.

The effects

With such powerful dust storms roaming the landscape, there have been severe consequences. Since the start of this month, more than 220 people in the states of Rajasthan, UP, Delhi, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have died. The causes range from suffocation to lung infections and blunt trauma from the debris. Various schools in Delhi, Haryana, and Chandigarh were closed following a warning issued by the Meteorological Department.

The Metro service in Delhi also suffered from the Blue Line from Dwarka to Noida City Center being closed for almost 45 minutes. The trains were then slowed down. The dust storm also brought down trees, poles, and other hardened structures, which resulted in traffic jams across the affected areas. Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a prayer to all those who suffered and ordered for the police and emergency response to be on standby in the affected states.

The cautions and cure

If such a storm is intended to hit, shallow drizzle along with high-speed winds is usually a telltale sign. When anything like that occurs, all doors and windows should be locked. It is best to stay indoors and see if the weather has cleared from the inside.

Prevent any confrontation with open areas, as debris is bound to be within the storm. If you are already in the open ground, avoid being close to trees, billboards, and electric poles. Find hard shelter wherever you can and have something to cover your face from the dust. Breath as little as possible and wait for the storm to blow over. Do not try to consume any edibles from the open when the storm has passed.

It is truly a heartbreaking outcome of extensive urbanization and deforestation that mankind has been involved in ever since the Industrial Revolution. If this is not a wake-up call by nature to start on building a greener future, I don't know what is. It is essential we start taking steps instead of tweets to care for our natural resources and our environment. Otherwise, such phenomena escalate into something that threatens every human being's existence.