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Taj Mahal: Symbol of Apathy and Neglect

Jewel of India In Danger

On the banks of the Yamuna River, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, there lies a prominent white marble monument that serves as a testament to love. Hailed as a wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal was constructed in Agra to honor the memory of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. While the Taj Mahal is renowned for its intricate architecture, pollution is threatening its undeniable beauty. The white marble mausoleum is turning yellow, brown and green due to the presence of harmful pollutants in the atmosphere, as a result of industrial activity. Particularly, road traffic has increased sulfur dioxide emissions which contribute to acid rain and cause the monument to turn yellow.  Further, heavy pollution in the Yamuna River has led to the rapid breeding of insects which poses a problem since their excrement is a major contributor to the color change of the Taj Mahal. The Indian Supreme Court is fully aware of these significant threats and recently ordered the government to either demolish or restore the mausoleum. In response, the Indian government organized a panel, led by the secretary of the Ministry of Environment, to crack down on surrounding industries and institute stricter regulations. While the Indian government is in the process of developing new environmental regulations to address pollution of the Taj Mahal, leaders should instead focus on the stricter enforcement of existing regulations and greater allocation of resources towards monument preservation.

Regulations Not The Issue, Enforcement Is

Although the Supreme Court recently issued this ultimatum to the Indian government, efforts to regulate pollution near the Taj Mahal have been ongoing for 31 years. Over the years, the Supreme Court closed down thousands of factories in the vicinity. However, the government developed no concrete plans to ensure that environmental regulations were continually enforced by surrounding industries. The Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), a 10400 sq km area around the Taj Mahal, was established by the Supreme Court in 1996 for the purpose of monument preservation. The Supreme Court issued restrictions on industries in this zone, such as requiring them to use natural gas instead of burning fossil fuels.  Further, the TTZ Authority was granted powers to enforce the regulations laid out by the Supreme Court. Despite these efforts, the lethargy of the TTZ Authority in utilizing their powers has led to rising industrial pollution and violation of environmental protection acts.  Clearly, firm regulations have already been established but a lack of enforcement is worsening the pollution problem. Therefore, new regulations are of no use unless they are effectively enforced by authorities.

Limited Allocation of Funds

Organizations dedicated to monument preservation, such as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), are facing criticism for not taking enough responsibility towards maintaining the Taj Mahal. However, it may be unjustified to criticize such organizations when they are receiving insufficient funds for protecting the mausoleum. The ministry of culture, mainly responsible for the conservation of cultural sites in India, receives less than 1% of the annual budget.  Even more alarming is the fact that the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh failed to include any funds for the preservation of the monument in the state budget. It is impractical to assign the responsibility of monument maintenance to cultural preservation organizations without providing them the resources to carry out their duties.  There must be greater collaboration between the national government and the state government of Uttar Pradesh so adequate funds can be allocated towards monument conservation.

Government Action Necessary

The possibility of the demolition of the Taj Mahal should serve as a wake-up call for the Indian government to revise their current methods of handling pollution. While the environmental panel formed to discuss the issue proposed new efforts such as heavy regulation of industries and the clean-up of the Yamuna River, these are only temporary solutions. Without the active enforcement of existing regulations, industrial pollution will remain a persistent problem. One method of enforcement could be providing industries monetary incentives to relocate away from the monument if they are unable to comply with anti-pollution regulations. Also, to ensure that monument preservation organizations are equipped with ample resources, the government must allocate significantly more funds to such organizations. Welcoming 7 to 8 million visitors annually,  the Taj Mahal can no longer fall victim to monumental neglect so millions can continue to enjoy its beauty.

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