The growing threat from pollution to India's prized monuments,
including the Taj Mahal, has prompted the authorities to speed up
action before it is too late.
The Uttar Pradesh government agencies and the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ)
authority that the pollution control board set up in 1999 have begun
reviewing projects that were held up due to litigation or a resource
crunch to save the monuments from environmental threats.
The project aims to insulate the world heritage monuments, including
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.
A set of eight schemes to control pollution and save these monuments
has been submitted for clearance from the state government before
being presented to the Planning Commission to include them in the
12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017).
The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI)
report for 2010 has been positive on some of the measures the
government had taken in the the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone,
which extends over 10,040 sq km covering the districts of Agra,
Firozabad, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.
According to officials, the government agencies now want to speed up
work on the pending projects.
"These projects have been held up since 2003 for want of funds. The
whole eco-sensitive zone needs them urgently. Now that the NEERI has
given its report, one hopes these projects would receive top
priority treatment," B.B. Awasthi, regional officer of the Uttar
Pradesh Pollution Control Board, told IANS.
There has been widespread concern over potential harm to the Taj
Mahal's foundation from the dry and polluted river Yamuna.
Even though the Archaeological Survey of India keeps denying, recent
reports by independent observers have highlighted the large-scale
deterioration in the overall upkeep of the world heritage monument,
said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage
An official told IANS: "Of the eight projects, seven are to be
executed in the Agra division and one in Bharatpur district of
Rajasthan. All the projects have been cleared by the state pollution
control board and the NEERI."
A major scheme is a barrage in the Yamuna downstream of the Taj
Mahal to store water for the city and to help contain the high
amount of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the ambient air.
The proposed Rs.600-crore barrage, eight kilometres downstream of
the Taj Mahal, and a project to extend the catchment area of the
Gokul Barrage in Mathura district are expected to bring down the SPM
level and also augment the water supply to the twin cities,
according to the official.
A Rs.1,200-crore water supply pipeline project from a canal of the
Ganges river with Japanese assistance is already under way.
Extending the green cover has been one of the chief concerns of
various environmental agencies, including the high power experts
committee constituted by the Supreme Court, headed by S. Varadarajan.
A Rs.77-crore plan for extensive planting of saplings to act as a
buffer to block the dust- laden winds from the west has been
"In the past two years there have been massive concretisation and
uprooting of trees to clear the way for the new expressways and the
inner ring road in Agra. The green cover has been reduced,
particularly on the Agra-Firozabad road. This balance has to be
restored early if an ecological catastrophe is to be avoided," said
green activist Shravan Singh.
One of the projects that has been hanging fire for long has been the
decentralisation of the bus depots and development of the existing
inter-state bus terminus.
The district authorities have not been able to shift the 100-odd
transport companies from the Yamuna Kinara road to a new Transport
The TTZ authority has now finalised a Rs.60- crore plan to develop
new transport hubs, which is awaiting government nod.
A bio-diversity conservation project has also been drawn up for
Bharatpur district. This will be an added attraction along with the
famous Ghana bird sanctuary, which has been facing an acute water
shortage for past several years.
According to Raman, a member of the Supreme Court monitoring
committee, while these projects are welcome, "there is a need for
the involvement of and discussion by the stakeholders on its
feasibility and utility.
A large number of farmers and activists, however, say that "the
pressure to take up these projects could also have come from the
builders' lobby, which has a big stake in the region."
Green Activist Ravi Singh says the new expressway and the Agra inner
ring road project are the most obvious immediate motivations.
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