“What is up with the weather in Delhi NCR?”
If I had a penny for every time someone has asked me this in the last month or two, I’d have enough money to move out of Delhi and escape this weather.
The weather in Delhi is changing just as often (if not more) as a background dancer’s costume in a Bollywood number. Even though we’ve been spared the worst of Delhi heat so far – the city being drowned in dust – is not the best of conditions for our health.
Why Delhi Weather is Being a Pain: What is Happening?
A dust storm is forming over Delhi as the result of a cyclonic circulation in Rajasthan. It might be accompanied by light rain as has been seen in the northern parts of Rajasthan.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city was recorded at 134 in the 'moderate' category on Tuesday, 16 May, by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
But with an incoming dust storm, the air quality will only decline, and PM 2.5 levels will increase.
Dr Ayush Gupta, Senior Consultant of Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, says that the unpredictable weather in the last few months has caused an increased number of issues to people with pre-existing respiratory and cardiac illness.
“We’ve had a continuous flow of patients for the past two months with the COVID surge, flu cases, and prolonged coughing. This year, we’ve already seen an extended season of respiratory problems for people across all age groups.”
Dr Kuldeep Kumar Grover, Head of Critical Care & Pulmonology at Gurugram’s CK Birla Hospital, agrees.
"Dust allergies and allergies in general aggravate health problems because they are made up of particulate matter that contain pollutants and gases that enter our upper respiratory system. Throat irritation and bronchitis cases increase during dust storms and air pollution."Dr Kuldeep Kumar Grover
'Price of Living in Delhi'
Dr Gupta adds though that while allergies and asthma have aggravated in patients, those who never had any symptoms are also experiencing an onset of these problems. People are having to use inhalers and medications.
“This is the price of living in Delhi," says Dr Gupta. He adds that children below 10 years of age, the elderly, and those with comorbidities are at an increased risk. However, everyone else too is at a risk of:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Congestive heart failure
To give you a better idea of the condition in Delhi, let's look at some charts.
Climate Change & Public Health
Should you be concerned about climate change affecting public health? Yes.
Erratic weather in Delhi NCR this time of the year is not normal. It has taken people by surprise. 2023 witnessed the 'wettest March in four years'.. April, on the other hand, had some days of intense heat waves, while others with moderate weather.
The World Health Organization had stated in 2021:
“Climate change is already impacting health in a myriad of ways, including by leading to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues.”
A 2021 study titled Air Pollution, Climate Change, and Human Health in Indian Cities also mentioned how climate change and air pollution can cause or aggravate:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
So, What Can You Do?
Avoid going outside when the air quality is poor outside.
Get vaccinated against common flu and pneumonia.
Limit exposure to polluted air.
"This is something we are experiencing because of climate change. Policymakers at large need to take a call on this."Dr Ayush Gupta
Dr Grover also feels that, at least in Delhi NCR, there has been an increasing trend of health related issues caused majorly by smog and pollution.
"We are inhaling smoke particles all day and the consequence is us coughing and catching allergies and infections," says he.