A worrying change in the colour of the Taj Mahal has prompted India’s Supreme Court to order the government to seek foreign help to fix the 17th century mausoleum.
Justices of the Supreme Court instructed the national and Uttar Pradesh state governments to bring in world experts to help preserve the country’s most famous landmark, saying pollution, insects and ageing had taken their toll.
"Earlier it was turning yellow and now it is becoming brown and green," Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said in a statement after viewing recent pictures of the Taj Mahal submitted by environmentalists.
“It is very serious. It seems you are helpless. It has to be saved. You can get help from experts from outside to assess the damage done and restore it.”
Reacting to the court’s words, officials from the Archaeology Survey of India said they were doing their best to combat effects of pollution on the monument, but were hamstrung “unless the source of environmental pollution was dealt with”.
The court judgment comes as the Indian government is mooting plans to privatise some of its most famous sites, under the “adopt a heritage” plan, which critics say would allow foreign companies to charge exorbitant rates to tourists, and Indians wishing to see their own heritage.
Despite government assurances that it was seeking help from experts, the bench asked for a plan to restore the beauty of the Taj, commenting that "there seems to be lack of will and expertise".
The court has been overseeing developments in cases surrounding potential harm to the Taj Mahal since the 1980s.
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Agra is subject to various anti-pollution laws and in 2006 a no-fly zone was introduced over the landmark.
Trees are also forbidden to be cut down in the Taj Trapezium Zone, a 4,000 sq mile (10,400 sq km) area with over 40 protected monuments within it – the Taj Mahal, Agra’s Red Fort and he old town of Fatehpur Sikri.
Fourteen Indian cities appeared in a list of the world’s 20 most polluted metropolises from the World Health Organisation on Wednesday, with Delhi at the top.
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