How Pollution Is Damaging Taj Mahal?

Built 350 years ago by the Mogul emperor Shah Jehan as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal was built of marble, jade, turquoise, lapis lazuli and other precious stones. But its shimmering white walls have begun to fade owing to the effect of pollution from vehicles, factories and workshops in the nearby city of Agra. Pollution has begun to mar the walls of this monument.

polution-tajDespite serious efforts by the Indian government to curb air pollution around the seventeenth century monument, its shimmering white marble is turning yellow. Airborne particles began settling down on the Taj Mahal’s shimmering white marble, imparting it a yellowish tinge.

In the past the authorities have established an air pollution monitoring centre in Agra. They found that while air pollutants like nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide were within tolerable limits, the suspended particulate matter reached very high levels except in rainy weather. Corrosive acid rain is also believed to be behind the discoloration of the Taj Mahal’s marble. The Yamuna River flowing by the monument is heavily polluted with sewage and industrial wastes and sometimes emits a foul smell which further pollutes the air.

Experts have suggested that the monument be given a clay pack treatment that in non-abrasive and non-corrosive.

To address the serious problem of air pollution around the monument, the Ministery of Petroleum and Natural Gas launched a ten-point programme to reduce air pollution to protect this monument from further damage. The details of the programme are as follows:

1) Supply LPG to all the households in the vicinity. LPG connections have been provided to all the homes in the area and those who apply for the first time get their connections without any problems.

2) Unleaded petrol and low-lead petrol having a maximum lead content of 0.15 gm\liter have been made available at 22 outlets in the area.

3) Commercial establishments and industries are actively being encouraged to switch over to LPG from fossil fuels, but the response from the industries has not been very good.

4) Unleaded lead petrol was made available at retail outlets on the Delhi-Agra highway and also in the city of Agra in order to improve the environmental conditions in the region.

Petrol with lead content of 0.15g/l was made available and sale of high lead pertrol was altogether stopped in the area around the Taj Mahal.

5) High speed diesel with a low sulphur content of 0.5% was introduced from 1996, as sulphur is highly corrosive for the Taj’s marble. Later on, the sulphur content of diesel fuel oil was further reduced to prevent damage to the marble monument.

A report put before the Indian Parliament recommended treatment of the yellowing marble with mud pack which is non-corrosive and non-abrasive and is expected to restore the alabaster look of the marble.

Nowadays polluting vehicles like cars and buses are not permitted to drive directly to the monument but are directed to a parking lot about two-and-a-half kilometers away. Visitors then get onto horse-drawn carriages or battery-powered buses to get to the monument.

Category: Environment, Science

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