India forms expert panel to save Taj Mahal from pollution
"A committee headed by the secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has been formed and it will study on case-to-case basis and take a tough stand on the hazardous industries in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal," Minister Nitin Gadkari told the media on Monday.
Taj Mahal is located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh's Agra town, 250 km from Delhi.
According to the minister, the use of bio-fuel, green fuel and electric vehicles will be encouraged in Agra - the homecity of Taj Mahal - to deal with air pollution, while the Yamuna river will be cleaned to reduce water pollution at the site.
The 17th century mausoleum was built in 1653 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. The iconic monument in Agra attracts about 12,000 visitors a day.
But Taj Mahal is being haunted by pollution. The country's Supreme Court has time and again raised concerns over the issue and rapped the archeological conservation authorities for not taking adequate steps to protect the monument.
Last week, the apex court warned the authorities that it could "shut down" the Mughal structure.
In May, the court had come down heavily on the state-owned Archeological Survey of India (ASI) as it asked the agency to list all the steps taken to prevent the Taj Mahal from getting infected by insects.
Environmentalists are also seeking protection of Taj Mahal from the effects of polluting gases and deforestation in the vicinity.
"Huge dumping of waste in the Yamuna river, which is near Taj Mahal, over time has led to stagnation of the river and is leading to the explosive breeding of an insect -- Chironomus Calligraphus," local environment activist D.K. Joshi said.
This activist earlier turned to the country's top environment court, the National Green Tribunal, for help.
Also in May, the Supreme Court had pulled up both the Uttar Pradesh government and the ASI over the Taj Mahal's color turning brown, asking "if anybody has any clue about the color of the white marble monument turning brownish."
The court had then asked the central government to take help from Indian experts or from abroad to assess the extent of damage and if that can be reversed.
On April 11, a 3.65-meter minaret at Taj Mahal's entry gate collapsed due to heavy rain and high winds. The metal pillar, which was referred to as Darwaza-e-Rauza, crashed as wind speed crossed 100 km per hour during a thunderstorm. ■