In Brief

Why the Taj Mahal is facing closure

Top Indian court tells government to restore the iconic mausoleum or demolish it

India’s Supreme Court has threatened to shut down the Taj Mahal unless steps are put in place to better preserve the world heritage site.

The two-judge bench said that protection of the 17th century monument from environmental degradation was a “hopeless cause” and castigated the authorities for their “apathy” in maintaining it, reports The Daily Telegraph. The failure of the government to implement protection measures detailed in a recent parliamentary report had resulted in “incalculable revenue losses”, the judges added.

“You can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided... No action plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish it (Taj) or you restore it,” the court told the government on Wednesday, in response to a petition by an environmental activist.

The judges cited the Eiffel Tower as an example of good preservation, noting that the Paris landmark remained in good condition despite attracting “eight times more tourists in comparison to the Taj”, says The Times of India

“Eighty millions go to watch Eiffel Tower which looks like a TV tower,” they said. “Our Taj is more beautiful. If you had looked after it, your foreign exchange problem would have been solved.” 

The once gleaming white marble of the Taj - built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum to his wife Mumtaz Mahal - has become discoloured as a result of pollution in the surrounding city of Agra, in Uttar Pradesh state. The court noted that the authorities were allowing expansion of industrial units near the monument, worsening the problem.

In addition to the damage caused by pollution, thousands of tiny insects that breed in the rubbish-infested Yamuna River beside it had also infested the monument, their excrement corroding and further staining the marble.

“A special committee has also been set up to find the source of pollution in and around Taj Mahal, which will suggest measures to prevent it,” the government said in an affidavit.

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