Photo: RuthChoi/Shutterstock

India’s Supreme Court Tells Government: Restore Taj Mahal or Demolish It

India News Art + Architecture
by Eben Diskin Jul 18, 2018

It’s clean it or lose it time for the Taj Mahal. Bug feces and industrial pollution have caused the iconic Indian monument to lose some its shine, turning its white marble to green, black, brown, and yellow. The government has failed to keep up with the building’s maintenance and restoration, so India’s Supreme Court is taking matters into its own hands, issuing this ultimatum: either restore the Taj Mahal, or demolish it.

The Supreme Court has weighed in on the famous monument before. In May, the court instructed the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the Taj Mahal is located, to seek foreign experts to help stop the building’s changing color, since the state itself seemed unable or unwilling to do so themselves. State and federal officials, however, have yet to file any action plan, prompting the court to issue an ultimatum.

The main threats to the monument are man made. Nearby oil refineries, a 200-year-old wood-burning crematorium, and other factories have caused the marble to change color. The government has closed dozens of factories, but that hasn’t stopped the yellowing of the magnificent building. Insects also pose a threat to the Taj Mahal, as a particularly invasive bug called Chironomus calligraphus has been leaving patches of green-black frass all around the structure. The bug’s population has exploded in recent years due to the pollution of the waterway.

While the threat of demolishing the Taj Mahal might be exaggerated, the government isn’t taking it lightly. The Times of India has reported that the government plans to create a 100-year plan for the Taj Mahal that would include closing down more nearby factories, preventing pollution discharge into the Yamuna River, establishing a green mass transit system in Agra, and improving the area’s sewage treatment.

It’s probably in the government’s best interest to appease the court, and take measures to preserve their most popular attraction. The Taj Mahal does, after all, draw up to 70,000 visitors per day, and they would be disappointed to find a building covered in bug feces. Or just a pile of rubble.


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