Sand and dust storms impact over 500 million in India: Study

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Source: This post is based on the article “Sand and dust storms impact over 500 million in India: Study” published in Down to Earth on 1st September 2021.

Relevance: Impact of sand and dust storm.

Synopsis: More than 500 million people in India and more than 80 per cent of the populations of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran are exposed to medium and high levels of poor air quality due to sand and dust storm. It also impacts agriculture, energy, environment, aviation, human health and cities.

Context: A recent report titled Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific” is released by the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM). The report highlighted various concerns both positive and negative associated with sand and dust storm.

Findings of the report:

  • Sand and dust storms contribute significantly to poor air quality in Karachi, Lahore and Delhi in ‘southwest Asia’. Nearly 60 million people in these places experienced more than 170 dusty days a year in 2019.
  • The situation is much worse for six million residents of eight cities across the region. Out of these three in China, two in Iran, two in Pakistan and one in Uzbekistan. These places had unhealthy concentrations of particulate matter in the air every day for at least ten months in 2019.
  • It identified ’east and northeast Asia’, ’south and southwest Asia’, ’central Asia’ and the ’Pacific’ as the four main sand and dust storm corridors of Asia-Pacific. The region is the second-largest emitter of mineral dust.
  • Impact on energy– India, China and Pakistan lost 1,584 gigawatt-hours (gWh), 679 gWh and 555 gWh of energy loss, respectively, due to sand and dust storms in 2019.
  • Impact on agriculture– Dust deposition impacted large portions of farmland in Turkmenistan (71%), Pakistan (49%) and Uzbekistan (44%). The dust has high salt content which is toxic for the plants.
  • Impact on the environment– The deposition of dust on glaciers induces a warming effect, increasing the melting of ice.
  • The risk of impacts from sand and dust storms is projected to increase in the 2030s due to more extreme drought conditions in parts of Western Australia, south-easternTurkey, Iran and Afghanistan.
The positive impacts of sand and dust storm:
  • It can increase the nutrient content in the areas of deposition and benefit vegetation.
  • Dust deposited on water bodies can alter their chemical characteristics, triggering both positive as well as adverse outcomes.
  • Dust particles that carry iron can enrich parts of oceans, improving the phytoplankton balance and impacting marine food webs.
Correlation with SDG:

Sand and dust storms directly affect 11 of the 17 United Nations-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG):

  • Ending poverty in all forms
  • Ending hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Safe water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry innovation and infrastructure
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
Terms to know: Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM)


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