The Supreme Court recently directed the Agra Development Authority to stop all commercial activities within a 500-metre radius of the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Supreme Court’s Intervention:
SC has repeatedly called attention to the failures in protecting the Taj Mahal from various forms of pollution.
In 2018, it had reprimanded the Centre and the UP government for its “apathy” and stated that the preserving of the Mughal-era structure was a “hopeless cause.”
The Taj Trapezium Zone case
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.
In 1984, Advocate and environmentalist M C Mehta had filed a petition before the Supreme Court, claiming that industries, foundries, vehicles and the nearby Mathura petroleum refinery were releasing toxic gases like sulphur dioxide, which were harmful to both the monument and the people in its vicinity.
In 1996, the top court in a landmark judgement (C. Mehta vs Union Of India & Ors), stated that “the atmospheric pollution in TTZ has to be eliminated at any cost.”
It found that the nearby coke/coal consuming industries were damaging the monument and the people living in the TTZ.
In 2010, a report submitted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) found that despite various government schemes to reduce pollution in the TTZ area, the iconic Taj Mahal continued to face a threat from water and air pollution.
Damage caused by insects
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.