India’s epic monument of love -- Taj Mahal, 195 kms south of Delhi in Agra -- is again falling prey to rising air and water pollution, eight years after the government spent Rs 220 crore to reduce pollution levels.
Levels of gaseous pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NOX), which can dilute the sparkle of Taj Mahal, have crossed the 1996 levels, a decade later, after showing a falling trend till 2002. NOX levels in 2006 had been recorded at 30 units per cubic meter of air as against 22 ug/m3 in 1996.
“There is an increasing air pollution tendency beyond 2002 which may be attributed to rise in man and vehicular population,” said Nagpur based National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in a report to environment ministry.
The Environment ministry had asked NEERI to study environmental impact of eight projects, for which the Central government paid Rs 220 crore in 1998 to improve environmental quality of Taj Trapezium Zone (TPZ). Pollution in and around Taj Mahal had risen to levels that was eroding the monument in early 1990s leading to Supreme Court’s intervention.
NEERI found that the pollution levels in the zone in Agra city showed improvement till 2002 because of these projects but the situation is slipping back to where it was before the Central government projects started.
Apart from NOX, other two major air pollutants respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) is rising and was recorded 66 and 83 per cent respectively higher than the national air quality standards.
While air quality around Taj Mahal was found to be better than four other locations in Agra city, it is worse than ten major Indian cities such as Faridabad, Kolkatta, Solapur and Pune.
The report also highlighted that the government’s effort to improve underground water quality has failed to bear any results. “Salinity of underground water has not improved despite construction of Gokul barrage,” the central government institute said, in the report.
This has primarily happened because of increase in underground water extraction in and around Taj Mahal area. As a result of this, the underground water level has fallen to four meters to 44 meters in a space of seven years since 2007. The underground water was also found to be polluted because of discharge of effluents from the local industry.
NEERI had garbage was being thrown in drains even around Taj Mahal causing major water pollution and has asked the Agra municipal corporation to have a system for proper collection of garbage.