Discoloration of the Taj Mahal due to pollutants

Written by: Raj Lal (Georgia Tech)

In this project, we have looked at pollutant deposition to the surface of the Taj Mahal and its subsequent discoloration. Through the course of this work, we have:

  • Developed on-site MSW burn inventories in Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) from a method developed by a post-doctoral researcher on the PIRE project
  • Applied these inventories to an air pollution dispersion model
  • Quantified the deposition of two components of Fine Particulate Matter (PM­2.5) from open waste and dung cake (commonly used as fuel for food prep) burning

This has been a very rewarding project, as I think the students and faculty members who have been associated with it can agree! Coming on to these projects, from a personal side, I was hoping to be a part of problem-solving work that had practical outcomes to the work being done, which sometimes can be tough in a research setting. Being a part of the PIRE projects has been an awesome opportunity, with many projects having “real life” solutions. In fact, within a month of the findings from the first part of the Taj Mahal study, Agra had banned dung cake burning within the city.


Documenting a waste burn event and location in Agra, India

With this second project, we are aiming to do a direct comparison of the influence of open waste burning (which when Dr. Russell, Ramaswami, Bergin and Tripathi were on site initially was one of the primary points of emphasis of the project – open waste burning is prevalent in Indian cities and a contributor to poor air quality) to dung cake burning to see if the findings could suggest a need for better waste management practices in the city.


Spatial fields comparison between (above) open waste burning and (below) Dung cake burning in Agra. Raj-4

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