Air pollution is fast leading to the discolouration of the Taj Mahal, Agra’s famous white-marble monument of love, a study by two scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur) has claimed.
In a year-long programme, professor SN Tripathi of the civil engineering department at the institute and the coordinator at the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, professor Tarun Gupta, found that high levels of light absorbing particles including black carbon, light absorbing organic carbon (brown carbon) and dust was present in the area around the monument.
The study estimated the impact the deposited particles had on the perceived colour of the Taj Mahal by the human eye. Results indicated the light-absorbing dust, black carbon and the brown carbon generated from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass were responsible for the discolouration, Tripathi said.
The two scientists also used several pre-cleaned white-marble deposition targets near the main dome of the monument to study the effect air pollution had on their colour. The targets were found covered with coarse particles and had become darker in colour, Tripathi said.
It was also noted that the ambient particulate concentration, which is an indicator of air pollution, was significantly higher than the annual world Health Organization guidelines.
The domed monument was built by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan between 1632 and 1654 for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It houses their graves and a mosque, as well as several other graves of Mogul royalty. Around 30 lakh tourists visit the site every year.
To cut back on pollution, cars and buses are not permitted to drive to the Taj Mahal but must be parked at a lot about 2km away, where visitors can take battery-run buses or horse-drawn carriages.
Tripathi, however, said the measures already being taken by the government were not enough and more stringent guidelines were needed to protect the heritage building.