Rapid desertification, water depletion and "abnormal" Western Disturbances, coupled with cyclonic circulations, have contributed to a "spate of dust storms" in the country in the past few month, environmentalist Sunita Narain said today. In a Facebook Live event hosted this evening, she also said that these storms were becoming the "new normal" and therefore the country needed to improve its forecasting ability, dust reduction management and management of its water resources. The event, titled 'Unprecedented storm season and the challenge before us', comes in the backdrop of death of over 250 people in dust and thunder storms across the country last month, owing to which the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has faced criticism. "Large number of dust storms have hit various parts of the country in the past few months, and that is not normal. So, the question, we need to ask is, whether this the new normal. And, what is the level of the preparedness of the country in that scenario?" she asked. During the online interaction, Narain, the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), claimed that "50 dust storms have hit over 16 states in the past two-and-a-half months, killing 423 people". Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar are among the state that have recorded several deaths due to storms. "Several factors have contributed to these storms, from rapid desertification, water depletion, excessive groundwater extraction, abnormal Western Disturbances, coupled with cyclonic circulations from the Bay of Bengal," she said. Unprecedented heat condition has added to the desertification as it makes soil hot and light. "Various factors, coupled with the cyclonic circulations from Bay of Bengal, are making for an extremely deadly cocktail. And, lot of this issue is man-made and therefore, more desertification cannot be allowed, we cannot afford to make mistakes," she said. Desertification refers to the the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture. "We have to improve our forecasting ability, dust reduction management and management of its water resources, so the climate change effects do not get exacerbated," Narain said. Meanwhile, the MeT department in Lucknow today warned that thunderstorm and dust storm accompanied with winds were "very likely" in over 20 districts of Uttar Pradesh, mostly in the eastern parts of the state. The environmentalist said monsoon is about to break and furious rains have already lashed Pune and Mumbai. "Monsoon is becoming more complex so we need to achieve greater precision in our forecast capabilities," she said. On the Western Disturbance originating from the Mediterranean, Narain said, "Instead of 2-3 normal Western Disturbances, this time 10 delayed Western Disturbances have occurred. And, instead of March-April, it has come up to May."