India responds to shock Taj Mahal demolition order with pollution ban

The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is proposing a ban on construction activity, factory pollution and the use of plastics in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal. The move is an attempt to stop the mausoleum’s marble fabric turning yellow and green, and is a response to a ruling in India’s supreme court two weeks ago that ordered it to be restored or demolished.

The proposals are contained in a proposal sent to the supreme court by the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh. The document also suggests banning traditional vehicles in favour of electric or hybrid cars and the replacement of lawns with trees, which was better able to absorb pollution. The city of Agra, where the Unesco World Heritage Site is located, was recently named the eighth most polluted in the world by the World Health Organisation.

Supreme court judges issued the ruling as a shock tactic to force "lethargic" authorities to respond to a court order in May that required Uttar Pradesh to find foreign experts who could address the staining of the Taj’s white marble.

During those hearings, MC Mehta, an environmental lawyer, told the New York Times: "My question is, ‘What are you doing about it?’ You are the custodian of monuments. You are an expert professional body. It is your job and you have to do it. Why are you so slow in taking action?"

Reuters quotes Divay Gupta from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage as saying: "There have been various studies, various plans, but they have not been implemented in right earnest in a coordinated manner."

The mausoleum has been affected by algae from the nearby Yamuna River, which in turn has attracted insects that excrete a green substance. Dirt from tourists has also tainted the monument, as visitors to the Taj Mahal have to walk barefoot.

Image courtesy of Dreamstime/Chapellecottage

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