India plans to battle pollution staining the Taj Mahal

AGRA, India: A monkey looks for eatables on the polluted banks of the Yamuna river next to the historic Taj Mahal in Agra, India. —Reuters

NEW DELHI: India has proposed a ban on plastics, polluting factories and construction around its 17th-century monument to love, the Taj Mahal, a government document showed, in a bid to stave off pollution that is turning the structure yellow and green. The white marble mausoleum is located around 210 km from the capital New Delhi in the northern city of Agra, which the World Health Organization rated in May as the world’s eighth-most polluted.

In a draft document submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, authorities in Uttar Pradesh state, where Agra is located, said they would ban all plastics, switch to electric and hydrogen vehicles, and boost the green cover within the precincts of the Taj, to fight pollution. “Replacing present-day lawns with tree cover as existed originally will increase the biomass,” the document read.

This step would reduce water consumption to maintain the surrounding garden and boost the water table, besides trapping dust to reduce pollution, the draft added. India’s Supreme Court is driving the campaign to protect the country’s most famous monument, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The document was submitted after the justices, in a fit of anger during a hearing two weeks ago, demanded that authorities either restore the structure or tear it down.

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is flanked by a garbage-strewn river and is often enveloped by dust and smog from belching smokestacks and vehicles. Environmentalists and historians have long warned about the risk of soot and fumes from factories and tanneries dulling the monument, which also faces attack from insects that stain its marble.

“There have been various studies, various plans, but they have not been implemented in right earnest in a coordinated manner,” said Divay Gupta, an official of the non-profit Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). The draft proposes an integrated environmental and natural heritage management plan, with a special focus on checking air pollution, besides river and water management and conservation.–Reuters

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