According to a new UN assessment, sand and dust storms expose more than 500 million people in India and more than 80% of the populations of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the Islamic Republic of Iran to medium to high levels of poor air quality.
The Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM) launched the report, Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific, today at a side event to the ongoing seventh session of the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.
Sand and dust storms seriously affect several areas in the world, including in Asia and the Pacific, according to Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary. He said “The report we are launching today reveals that sand and dust storms pose risks to both society and environment and directly threaten the achievement of 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The Report demonstrates that the cumulative effects of sand and dust storms on society are significant, and they are more frequent than most other types of natural hazards, and their impacts are complex”.
The new report assesses the risk of sand and dust storms separately for a number of critical sectors, including agriculture, energy, environment, aviation, human health, glacier melting, and cities, in the context of global climate change debates, highlighting extreme weather conditions and rising temperatures causing exacerbated meteorological hazards. It shows how severe storms affect air quality and degrade broad swaths of cropland, disrupt commercial aviation services, reduces solar power generating efficiency, and hasten glacier melting.
According to APDIM Director Letizia Rossano, It is critical to mobilize coordinated regional action to decrease risk and build resilience to the harmful transboundary impact of sand and dust storms. “The evidence presented in this assessment calls for the Member States to strategize their joint actions, considering gaining a deeper understanding of the socio-economic impact of sand and dust storms, establishing a coordinated monitoring and early warning system with an impact-based focus, and coordinating actions in most at-risk and exposed geographical areas to mitigate the risks”.
The risk assessment reveals that sand and dust storms have significant cumulative consequences on society, not least because they occur more frequently than most other natural disasters. Their consequences are complicated, and they are a hot topic among policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region.