The Taj Trapezium Authority (TTZ) on Friday told the Supreme Court that a “no construction zone” has been declared in a 500 metre radius of the iconic Taj Mahal and the state government has envisaged a comprehensive plan to ensure balance between environment and development.
The TTZ Pollution (prevention and control) Authority has said that a number of steps have been taken for protection of the Taj Mahal and preservation of environment, including a ban on burning of wood near the historic mausoleum and municipal solid waste and agriculture waste in the entire area.
TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.
The TTZ Pollution (prevention and control) Authority was set up to monitor the progress of implementation of various schemes for protection of Taj and programmes for protection and improvement of the environment in TTZ and other issues.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court in pursuance to its November 20 direction, the authority has said no thermal power plant was running within the TTZ zone and uninterrupted power supply was ensured in Agra to discourage the use of diesel generator sets.
“No construction zone has been declared within 500 metre radius of Taj Mahal,” the affidavit said, adding, “within a radius of 500 metre of Taj Mahal, only the vehicles of the local residents are permitted for entry for which passes are issued by the regional transport department”.
It said that under the TTZ, polluting industries have switched over from coal or coke to cleaner fuels like CNG, LPG and electricity.
The affidavit also said vehicles like autorickshaws, school buses and commerical vehicles running on diesel or petrol were being converted into CNG and regional transport department was not re-registering vehicles older than 15 years in the TTZ.
It said the “state government is envisaging to have a consolidated and comprehensive planning to improve environment and to ensure ecological balance between environment and development”.
“For this, state government has requested School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi to prepare a vision document and comprehensive action plan for protection of Taj Mahal and its surrounding environment,” the affidavit said.
It referred to the Agra Master Plan 2021 and said that for improvement in ambient air quality, mechanised sweeping was being done on regular basis in Agra city for preventing dust particles in the atmosphere.
Besides this, other developmental activities for protection of Taj Mahal and promotion of tourism were being taken up, it said.
The affidavit said that an investment of Rs 23.34 crore was proposed to establish security and surveillance camera network in Taj Mahal premises and other parts of the city.
“Taj premises and other parts of city will be monitored live from central control and command centre connected to network of CCTV surveillance cameras. The survelliance system will help in protecting Taj Mahal from threats like terrorist attacks,” it said.
It said an investment of Rs two crore was proposed for plantations along the main roads of Taj Ganj as this would help in reducing the pollution level and there was a proposal to procure 50 electric buses for public transport in Agra.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta had on November 20 sought to know if there was any comprehensive action plan to protect the Taj Mahal not only from environment point of view but also with regard to other aspects.
Environmentalist M C Mehta, who had filed a plea seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area, had earlier told the bench that the TTZ was an “ecologically sensitive area” and the state government should have come out with a comprehensive policy for preservation and protection of the Taj.
The apex court, which is dealing with Mehta’s petition, has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The mausoleum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.