RENO — When Dr. Rajan Chakrabarty from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) visited his native city Guwahati, located in the Brahmaputra River Valley (BRV) region of India last year, he was surprised to discover a dramatic increase in the level of air pollution. When he conducted tests, he found that what was once a pristine area now has one of the highest levels of black carbon (BC) aerosols in the world.
His findings were published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters this month. The research was completed over one week during January and February 2011, using a micro-Aethalometer to measure BC concentrations in the city of Guwahati. This information has shed light on serious climate issues affecting the area and brought international attention to Chakrabarty. His research has earned him recognition not only from increased interest in studying the region by the Indian government, but also with coverage in Nature India, the BBC, and regional Indian newspapers.
“Speculations based on limited observation from one single station in the BRV region such as ours are not enough to adequately address this region’s climate change. Nonetheless, the study emphasizes the influence of large BC emissions on the climate of the BRV region and the pressing need for future studies,” Chakrabarty is quoted in the journal article.
Born and raised in this region of India, Chakrabarty noted it used to be one of the cleanest parts of the country 20 years ago. However, due to the rapid urbanization of the area and poor enforcement of environmental laws by the government over the last 10 years, the concentration of pollutants has dramatically increased. The Brahmaputra River Valley, according to Chakrabarty, is now a regional “hotspot” of BC emissions, similar to the Indo-Gangetic Plain. There has been a substantial increase in surface temperature and precipitation documented from 1980 through 2005, which can be directly linked to the increasing levels of BC pollution.