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Mud packs and other remedies to save the Taj from pollution, age and insects

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    18th Mar, 2020

The Taj Mahal complex has been spruced up for the visit of United States President.

Context

The Taj Mahal complex has been spruced up for the visit of United States President. The red sandstone corridors had been cleaned of weather stains, the fountains had been scrubbed, and extra flower beds had been added to the gardens.

About Mud packs

  • The graves of Emperor Shah Jahan and his queen Mumtaz Mahal had received special “Multani mitti’ (Fuller’s clay) mud pack treatment”.
  • Mud packs have been one of the ASI’s favoured ways to remove the yellow stains that have appeared over the years on the Taj Mahal’s white marble facade.
  • The treatment traditionally employed to clean marble surfaces help restore the natural shine and colour of the monument.
  • The clay is applied in the form of a thick paste that absorbs the grime, grease and bird droppings on the marble, before being washed off using distilled water.
  • Mud packs were applied on the surface of the monument first in 1994, and then again in 2001, 2008, and, most recently, beginning 2014.
  • Increasing pollution in the air over the Gangetic Valley affecting the Taj has been a reason for concern for archaeologists and conservationists for long now.
  • The Taj Mahal was completed in 1653 as a mausoleum for the Emperor’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth.
  • The Taj was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1983.

Analysing the pollution game:

  • Acid rain: The most dangerous thing is acid rain. The inadvertent emission of sulfuric oxide, due to road traffic, causes acid rain, due to which Taj Mahal’s colour changes to yellow, tarnishing it, and worse, it erodes it, attacking what is most fragile at first, the sculptures and incrustation of stone. 
  • Green dropping: Algae proliferate along with some harmful insects, especially a local variety of mosquitoes (chironomids) make green dropping, the colour of algae they feed on. The mausoleum is regularly browned by these droppings but fortunately, marble resists these droppings which, obviously are not enough corrosive. 
  • Water pollution: The river Yamuna passes next to the monument, also goes to Delhi, which is heavily equipped in terms of polluting industry, this pollution is inevitably found in the river and reaches Agra very quickly, which has an astonishing consequence.
  • Discoloration: There are various factors that have led to the discoloration of the Taj Mahal.
    • Firstly, the polluting industries and the vehicular emissions in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) area are a major source of pollution.
    • The second reason is that the Yamuna River, which flows behind the Taj, has become highly polluted. There is no aquatic life in it and has caused insect and algae infestation on the Taj Mahal and other monuments situated on its banks.

Taj Trapezium Zone:

  • The Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) spreads over 10,400 sq km across the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. 
  • Since 1994, no new factory can be established in this protected area around the Taj Mahal. 

 Insect attacks

  • The source of this problem comes from the dry river Yamuna, which has become devoid of any ecological flow.
  • These insects, as has been stated in the Archaeological Survey of India’s report, breed in the polluted matter in the river, and then attack the Taj Mahal.
  • Earlier, there were fish in the river, which ate the insects and their larvae, but now, due to the serious water pollution, there is no sign of any aquatic species in the river.
  • Other monuments that stand on the banks of the river Yamuna, such as the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, the Mehtab Bagh, and portions of the Agra Fort, too, have been affected by these insect attacks.
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