Those visiting the Taj Mahal may now compulsorily have to use “shoe covers” to enter the main mausoleum to keep dust away from the iconic seventh century monument, which is facing structural erosion due to pollution and alleged neglect.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has submitted a host of such measures as part of a “Site Management Plan” to the Supreme Court, in pursuance of its order earlier this year, for conserving the Taj Mahal.
The plan recommends a comprehensive switch to CNG fuel in Agra, strict enforcement of vehicle pollution norms and steps to prevent fine dust from the construction of the Metro, among other measures.
It recommended “a complete ban on burning of bio mass/municipal waste. Battery and CNG operated vehicles should be encouraged. All public transport running in the city should be CNG-based or battery-operated”.
The ASI also proposed measures to encourage plantation in the city’s open areas and strict implementation of the National Building Code for construction-related activities.
The ASI’s plan comes following a petition highlighting damage to the monument due to inadequate maintenance.
The apex court, which is monitoring the Taj’s upkeep, had rebuked the ASI for its alleged failure to take appropriate steps to protect the structure. It had also observed that the white marble used in the monument had turned yellow due to air pollution.
“To address the issue of prevention of dust and dirt in the main mausoleum and to maintain cleanliness, use of shoe cover is recommended to be made mandatory to enter the mausoleum premises,” the ASI has recommended.
It suggested scientific treatment and cleaning of the replica graves and surrounding walls inside the mausoleum.
The survey also suggested that “all buildings and gardens within the complex need to be regularly maintained to ensure its good state of preservation”.
It further said that alternate queuing systems and differential ticketing systems must be used and extra security personnel be deployed at various locations to cater to the high footfall. “An approximate additional deployment of 45-50 security personnel is required on site,” the plan said.
It also recommended that “use of electric crematorium should be encouraged” and the diesel engines used in trains be phased out. To prevent dust from spreading, it recommended “mechanical and wet cleaning of roads” within 5-km radius of the monument.
The survey also suggested that steps would be needed to tackle water pollution. “The river banks should be cleaned up… Untapped nallahs flowing into the river should be tapped.”
The proposals will now be vetted by the Supreme Court.