News Analysis |
India’s top court on Tuesday sharply criticized the government for failing to protect the Taj Mahal, the centuries-old monument to love which has been changing color because of pollution. The brilliant marble of the Taj Mahal — a UNESCO world heritage site — has acquired a yellow tinge over the years.
The color of the marble “was first becoming yellow. Now it seems to be green and black,” a Supreme Court bench said after reviewing recent photos of the monument. The Taj Mahal has been slowly yellowing because of smog in the region. Insects also leave green stains on its rear wall, which faces the heavily-polluted Yamuna River.
Various methods — including using mudpacks to draw the stain from the marble — have been employed since conservationists first raised alarm about the decay. Authorities also announced plans earlier this year to limit the number of visitors to reduce wear and tear.
In contrast, many Chinese cities are improving. In 2016 only four Chinese cities —Baoding, Hengshui, Xingtai and Anyang — were in top 20 compared to 14 Chinese cities, including Beijing, in 2013’s top 20.
But that seems to have done little to stop the decay. “It appears that you do not have the expertise or you have (it) but do not want to utilize it, or you do not care about (the Taj Mahal),” the court said. “You all appear helpless. Money should not be the consideration…. We need to save it.”
Supreme Court justices M.B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and the government of Uttar Pradesh state a week to respond. This is not the first time the Supreme Court has criticized Indian authorities on the issue. In February, it warned that the state government’s “ad hoc” approach was jeopardizing the monument.
Read more: Taj Mahal visitors limited to preserve iconic monument
The Taj Mahal was built in the 17th century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth in 1631. It has attracted some of the most famous people in the world, and is often a stop for world leaders on state visits to India. Diana, the late British princess, was famously photographed alone on a marble seat there in 1992.
For its part, the Indian government has moved to protect the Taj Mahal in the past: it forced the closure of thousands of factories near the site in an effort to protect the building and grounds from pollution. Unfortunately, fighting pollution in the area is an uphill battle. The mausoleum, located in the city of Agra, sits adjacent to the Yamuna River. The river is rife with raw sewage, which attracts hordes of insects.
These bugs apparently excrete on the world heritage site. On several occasions over the past couple of decades, the Indian government has attempted to clean the exterior of the building, in the hopes of bringing it back to its original coloring. But their efforts have had little or no effect.
The Taj Mahal, the centuries-old monument to love which has been changing color because of pollution. The brilliant marble of the Taj Mahal — a UNESCO world heritage site — has acquired a yellow tinge over the years.
India’s environmental woes do not end there. The WHO global air pollution database released in Geneva early Wednesday morning reveals that India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations, with the worst being Kanpur.
Read more: Yogi Adityanath responds as war of words over Taj Mahal escalates
Despite public outcry over severe air pollution, and both Centre and Delhi government taking up the issue, WHO’s database of more than 4,000 cities in 100 countries shows that Delhi’s pollution levels improved only marginally between 2010 and 2014 but started deteriorating again in 2015. In 2016, the latest year in WHO’s database, Delhi was in sixth spot, having recorded its highest pollution levels in six years.
The city’s PM 2.5 annual average was 143 micrograms per cubic meter, more than three times the national safe standard, while the PM 10 average was 292 micrograms per cubic meter, more than 4.5 times the national standard. In contrast, many Chinese cities are improving. In 2016 only four Chinese cities —Baoding, Hengshui, Xingtai and Anyang — were in top 20 compared to 14 Chinese cities, including Beijing, in 2013’s top 20.