India

Close Taj Mahal, demolish or restore it: SC lashes out

11 Jul 2018 | By Gogona Saikia
Protecting the Taj Mahal a hopeless cause: SC

The SC has lashed out at the Centre and the UP government for their "lethargy" in protecting the Taj Mahal, which has now become a "hopeless cause."

"Either we will shut it down, or you demolish it or restore it," the court boomed.

Taking a tough stand, it added it will hold daily hearings on the matter from July 31.

The SC's concern isn't surprising.

In context: Protecting the Taj Mahal a hopeless cause: SC

11 Jul 2018Close Taj Mahal, demolish or restore it: SC lashes out

DamageTaj is so polluted, we don't even know its color

US President Bill Clinton had once quipped that pollution had done "what 350 years of wars, invasions and natural disasters have failed to do to the Taj".

The signs started appearing two decades ago, during 1998-2000, when authorities noticed the Taj's signature white marble was turning yellow.

Now it is supposedly turning brown. The government recently approved a study to determine its exact color.

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Polluted water, polluted air, polluted land

DangersPolluted water, polluted air, polluted land

The Taj has borne the brunt of several factors: vehicles and factories in the vicinity have increased alarmingly, as have tourists.

Illegal mining in the Aravallis, dry sand from the Yamuna-bed and dust-laden winds from Rajasthan have raised pollution.

According to environmentalist MC Mehta, there's no aquatic life left in the river near the Taj.

Wood-burning crematoriums nearby don't help matters.

GovernmentInstead of intervening, authorities have contributed to the crisis

Add to these the bureaucratic inefficiency. According to a study, Delhi burns 2-3% of the total municipal solid waste generated every day, while Agra burns 24%. Much of it is burnt in the open, leading to toxic smog.

To make matters worse, the government recently sought permission for constructing a multi-level parking lot in the vicinity. Thankfully, the SC stayed it.

FailureIt's not as if the authorities didn't try

In the 1990s and 2000s, the government had undertaken protective schemes. But it admitted it had failed: today, Agra is the eighth most polluted city in the world, according to WHO.

The SC had also defined the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) in 1996, a 50km area around the complex to be made pollution-free. Ironically, today it is one of the world's most polluted belts.

'If you'd looked after Taj, foreign-exchange problem would've been solved'

Hearing a petition seeking Taj's maintenance, the SC said it's more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower, "which looks like a TV tower." "If you had looked after it your foreign exchange problem would have been solved. Do you realize the loss due to your apathy?"
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SCSC lashes out at UP government, Centre, TTZ chairman

The court expressed anguish over the UP government's failure to produce a vision document for protection of the Taj.

It asked the Centre what was being done, observing a parliamentary standing committee's report had been ignored.

It also asked the TTZ chairman why a ban on industrial expansion had been violated.

The court has now ordered the formation of a special committee to suggest anti-pollution measures.