Taj Mahal is often considered as the jewel of Muslim architecture in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world. The Taj Mahal is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the entire range of Indo-Islamic structures built in the Indian subcontinent. It is recognised as an architectonic beauty which is a pattern of combination of solids and voids. It also includes arches and domes which further enhance the aesthetic aspect of the entire structure. But for the several years, Taj Mahal is turning yellow mainly due to air pollution, discoloration of marbles.
There are no words to describe such a man-made wonder. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan employed the best architects and builders, as well as employing thousands workers including sculptors, brick layers, calligraphers and skilled workers in gemstone inlay. Important components like Lapis lazuli (Afghanistan), Jade (China), coral (Arabia) and rubies (Sri Lanka) turquoise (Tibet) were used extensively to beautify the monument. But most of the precious stones were looted along ago. Besides, milky white marble were brought from Makrana quarries from Rajasthan. The 144-foot-high main dome, constructed of brick masonry covered in white marble, weighs several thousand tons. The Taj was also the most ambitious project ever taken by the Mughal emperors.
Agra and its neighboring areas have a high rate of pollution which is due to automobile discharge, burning of municipal waste, cow dung and other forms of waste. These wastes released huge amounts of particulate matter (PM) into the atmosphere causing severe environmental damage. One should note that around 2000 metric tons of waste was being dumped into Agra every day. The burning of this waste comes at a very high damage to the ecological system. The dust and carbon-containing particles emitted during the burning of fossil fuels, garbage has been the primary reason for the discoloring of Taj Mahal. According to various reports, PM are more than 2 times the national standard (40) and more than 8 times the WHO guideline (10).
The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. But it is now 386 years old, as some discoloring would happen due after such a long time. Marble does not exist in a pure form, so the marble in the Taj Mahal is composed with other mineral components. But such mineral combination could fall victim to oxidization without proper preservation. Oxidization causes chemical reaction along the out layers leading to the browning of these minerals, resulting in black and brown marks on the marble structure. Besides, thundershowers and rain also affect the monument, which slowly weathering it down leading to cracks and chipping along the outer surface.
The pollution in the Yamuna has also fuelled growing numbers of insects, whose excretions stained the Taj Mahal an ugly yellow. Besides, the polluted river has the eroded banks near the foundation of the monument. Yamuna has been polluted due to various factors and has become a dumping ground for industrial and domestic waste. New Delhi dumps about 60 percent of its waste into this river. Though effluent treatment plants have been established to stop the chemicals from Industries it had not yielded positive results. Since, several factories continue to discharge chromium, arsenic and cadmium. It is not only the industrial sector the poor drainage system, saturated landfills, human settlements around the river also damage the river. The waste not only pollutes Yamuna, also tarnishes the image of one of the world’s most beautiful monuments.
Continuous trees felled throughout the Agra in the name of development has hurt the Taj Mahal. Agra lies in a semi-arid zone, and the temperatures can reach around 48 degrees Celsius in the area. Due to the absence of trees, the heat waves that regularly move along the plains of North India are moving swiftly to wreak any physical resistance which stands on its way. Hot wind along with dust has a highly abrasive effect on the Taj Mahal for the past two decades. Besides, the Taj Heritage Corridor – a riverfront project comprising food plazas and malls – was planned between the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. But luckily the project was shelved after Supreme Court’s orders, since it posed a potential threat to the monument. According to the reports of Archaeological Survey of India, sand accumulated in the reclaimed riverbed can erode the marble surface during sandstorms.
The government has announced the formation of a committee under the Chairpersonship of Secretary, M/o Environment, Forest and Climate Change, C. K. Mishra including experts from NEERI, IITs and experts from various organizations to look into the issue of industrial pollution. The committee will study on case to case basis and take a tough stand on hazardous industries in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal.
To deal with the water pollution in the Yamuna, the government is planning to cleaning of the Yamuna falls under the Namami Ganga project since it is a tributary of the Ganga and several projects are already being taken up to make the river pollution free. The government on its part has come up with 36 projects worth Rs. 4000 Crores on the river Yamuna. It showed that 11 projects already started in Delhi on the river Yamuna and the tender for the 12th project will be finalised soon. Aiming to reduce the heat wave, the government has taken measures to be taken up includes afforestation along the Yamuna, construction of rubber dam, solid waste management, developing a 35 KM long garden along the water front of Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.