By Elton Gomes
Describing the restoration of the Taj Mahal as a “hopeless cause,” the Supreme Court (SC)blasted the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government for their “lethargy” on Wednesday. The apex court said, ”Either we will shut down the Taj or you demolish or restore it.”
The SC was hearing a petition urging for proper maintenance of the Taj Mahal, a 16th-century marble mausoleum that attracts thousands of tourists from India and abroad every year. The Green Bench comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta was extremely angry that the authority in charge of the Taj Trapezium Zone was still reviewing applications from industrialists to expand their factories in the protected zone despite an SC moratorium.
Justice Lokur compared the Taj Mahal to Paris’ Eiffel Tower and said that the 16th-century marble mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was far more beautiful. He lamented over the fact that the Eiffel saw 80 million visitors, while the Taj Mahal saw only five million, and yet it was crumbling.
In May, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) noted that visitors’ unwashed socks and rampant algae seem to turn the Taj Mahal into yellow, brown, and green.
Earlier in 2018, the SC blamed the ASI for failing to take adequate steps to preserve and protect the Taj Mahal. Additionally, the apex court blasted the UP government for its inability to prepare a vision document to protect the national monument, and it also asked for details on what action has been taken by the Centre.
The judges today stated that the case will be heard on a daily basis beginning from July 31.
Pollution around the Taj Mahal
As Agra is situated in an industrial belt, air pollution levels in the city have been over the charts for the past 30 years. An air pollution database released by the World Health Organisation in May 2018 showed that Agra was ranked eighth in the list of cities having the dirtiest air.
In addition to this, the river Yamuna flows on the back side of the Taj Mahal and is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. In his affidavit to the SC, petitioner M.C. Mehta mentioned that there is no aquatic life in the Yamuna river. This has led to over-population of insects, algae, and other weeds, which further pose a threat to the Taj Mahal. The uncontrolled population of insects coupled with the increasing levels of air pollution has further affected the colour of the Taj Mahal.
Similar concerns were raised in a 1978 report titledReport on Environmental Impact of Mathura Refinery.However, it can be said that very little has changed since then. The report formed the basis for the write petition by Mehta.
Rising pollution levels and the government’s growing inaction have caused the Taj to deteriorate further. The Centre and the UP government have to take critical steps now or risk losing India’s monumental icon.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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