How The Taj Was Saved From Pollution
AGRA, (IANS) – Tourists who visit the 17th-century monument of love, the Taj Mahal in Agra, rarely fail to ask if the world heritage monument has finally become safe from the dangers of air and water pollution.
Is the Taj Mahal sinking? Is the color of the mausoleum turning yellow or grey?
The answer to all these questions and fears is both yes and no. When the SC pronounced its judgment in a series of directives while disposing of the PIL of eco lawyer MC Mehta, between 1993 and 1997, there was an international alarm over the conservational flaws and threats from environmental degradation in Agra.
The apex court on the recommendations of the high-powered committee headed by scientist S Vardarajan shut down all polluting industries in the Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 sq km, ordered the laying of a natural gas pipeline, asked the Mathura Oil Refinery to set up hydrocarbon cracker unit and use low sulphur crude, directed the UP government to ensure uninterrupted power supply to discourage the use of diesel generators.
It also asked the UP-Forest department to intensify greening efforts to insulate the Taj Mahal from air pollution. The SC also ordered the construction of a barrage or weir downstream of the Taj Mahal on the Yamuna River.
Over the past two decades, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has undertaken a series of measures to protect the Taj Mahal and other monuments in Agra from pollution.
Frequent mud therapy using Fullers Earth has removed dirt stains from the surface. The Taj looks cleaner and healthier, most tourists say. The Agra Municipal Corporation, presently headed by a young official Ankit Khandelwal, continuously ensures that the areas outside the Taj remain clean and attractive. The security agencies both inside and outside have modern types of equipment to deal with any situation.
Undoubtedly, some of the measures have yielded encouraging results.
Agra’s Taj Mahal continues to draw hordes of tourists from all over the world. As the winter vacations have started the number of daily visitors has gone up to 50,000.
Though people in Agra generally feel that the Yogi government in UP has been biased against the city and its monuments, a series of measures taken over the years have eased mobility, offering multiple choices of stay and cuisine, more attractions in the city, and comparatively cleaner surroundings.
On the negative side, are problems that need to be addressed by the Central government. One relates to the dry and polluted Yamuna River which is quite a put-off.
“When the tourists see the Yamuna at the rear the reactions are not pleasant. Fresh water should be discharged from upstream barrages and steps taken to begin construction of the dam downstream of the Taj Mahal,” says Mukul Pandya, a passionate horticulturist of the city.
The ugly and stinking Yamuna is a grim reminder that the reality hasn’t changed much, though a thousand crores of rupees have been squandered away on fancy promises.
Green and Red insects or mysterious microbes have made permanent breeding grounds towards the riverside at several spots on the main structure. Environmentalists have identified dry Yamuna as the source of these polluting organisms.