New Delhi: The Taj Mahal is losing its sheen due to unchecked vehicular pollution, tourism and several other reasons, noted a release issued by the Centre for Science and Environment here on Thursday. It added that the administration’s efforts to undo the damage had hit people’s livelihoods and local economies with the recent move to close ‘petha-making units.
“We will not be able to fix the problem unless we know the underlying cause,” said Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general Sunita Narain.
Criticising the Agra administration for mulling removal of all the makers of petha, the local sweet made from ash gourd — holding them responsible for the state of the Taj, she said: “The petha makers have been asked to either switch from using coal to LPG or shut shop. The move has left many people jobless.”
Recent studies have once again suggested that the scourge of pollution continues to adversely affect the white marble of the Taj. This time, it is not sulphur dioxide (which was suspected in the 1980s of turning the gleaming façade yellow). The villain today is black and organic carbon particles that are emitted from vehicles and other polluting units.
The biggest threat to the Taj is the unregulated number of visitors, which on some days is over 50,000. Constant treading wears down the marble floors.
A large number of trees have been felled in Agra in recent years to build roads and other infrastructure. Agra lies in a semi-arid zone, and experiences very hot summers when the temperature touches 49 degrees Celsius.
Mineral impurities present in the marble get oxidised and create brown stains. Rain also has a weathering effect on the marble and can cause chipping and cracking. The iron dowels used to fix the marble slabs on the building get rusted and the rust flows down with rain, getting deposited on the marble.
Hot dusty winds have an abrasive effect on the marble. Increasing green cover and water bodies is one way of curbing dust pollution.
Taj Heritage Corridor, the riverfront project, comprising food plazas and malls, planned between the Agra Fort and the Taj — was shelved on the Supreme Court’s orders as it could have been a threat to the monument.
Sand accumulated in the reclaimed river bed can erode the marble surface during sand storms, says the ASI. The site is yet to be turned into a green belt as directed by the court.
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