- About: Taj Mahal is a mausoleum complex built by the Mughal emperor, Shahjahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The monument covers an area of 42 acres.
- Location: Taj Mahal is situated on the right bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
- Architect: Ustad-Ahmad Lahori.
- Construction materials: Principally Red Sandstone from local quarries and White Marble dug from the hills of far-off Makrana, slightly southwest of Jaipur in Rajasthan.
- Taj Mahal is a perfect amalgamation of Indian, Islamic and Persian architectural styles.
- The complex of Taj Mahal majorly consists of five structures – Darwaza (main gateway), Bageecha (gardens), Masjid (mosque), Rauza (main mausoleum) and Naqqar Khana (rest house).
- It is a symmetrical planned building, with an emphasis of bilateral symmetry along a central axis on which the main features are placed.
- It unique architectural features include rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex and light shadow, quadripartite garden, calligraphy, and pietra dura etc.
- The Taj Mahal was declared a centrally protected monument of national importance in 1920.
- It was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1983, considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
- The management of Taj Mahal complex is carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India.
- Legal protection of the monument and the control over the regulated area around the monument is through the various legislative and regulatory frameworks such as the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 and Rules 1959 and its 2010 amendment act.
What Threats are Being Faced by The Taj Mahal?
- Discolouration: There are various factors that have led to the discoloration of the Taj Mahal such as the polluting industries and the vehicular emissions in the surrounding areas of Taj Mahal.
- Particulate Matter (PM): Agra is one of the most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 levels. The high concentrations of light absorbing particles in PM, especially black carbon (BC), light absorbing organic carbon (brown carbon, BrC), and dust are responsible for the surface discolouration of the Taj Mahal.
- Marble Cancer: The industries located near Taj Mahal produce pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide which react with water vapor present in the atmosphere to form Sulphuric acid and Nitric acid respectively. The acid mixes with rain and forms acid rain, and corrodes the marble, which is referred to as ‘marble cancer’.
- Damage by the insects: According to ASI experts, black and green patches appear due to excreta deposited by a particular species of insect, Goeldichironomus. This can damage the intricate designs and floral mosaics and the marble surface of the monument.
- Since the Yamuna River is highly polluted, insects are proliferating on a large scale due to the absence of fish (earlier fish used to feed on insects and their larvae).
Measures Taken to Save The Taj Mahal from the Threats of Pollution?
- The Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ):
- It is a defined area of 10,400 sq km around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution.
- The Central Government has constituted the Taj Trapezium Zone Pollution (Prevention and Control) authority in 1998 using the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- The TTZ comprises of 40 protected monuments including three World Heritage Sites – Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
- The geographical limits of the TTZ is defined in the shape of a trapezium lying in the Agra Division of the State of Uttar Pradesh and in the Bharatpur Division of the State of Rajasthan.
- The Supreme Court of India in December 1996 delivered a ruling banning use of coal/coke in industries located in the TTZ and switching over to natural gas or relocating them outside the TTZ.
- Despite these efforts, pollution levels in Agra continued to grow and damage the monument. The Supreme Court blamed the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and TTZ authorities for their inability to protect the monument.