Piqued over the response of Uttar Pradesh government and the archaeological survey of India to its notice regarding the threat posed to ‘Taj Mahal’ due to drying up of the Yamuna, the Supreme Court on Monday wondered if it was duty of the court to ensure safety of the 17th century monument of love.
"The monument is in your state. But this is how you take care of your monument? Is it the duty of the Supreme Court to take care of it? No one seems to be interested," a bench headed by justice DK Jain said. The SC has been passing orders for conservation of the Taj since the 1980s.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the famous monument of love was built between 1632 and 1653 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.
A British daily had reported that the foundation of the monument had been damaged and the wood used in the wells had rotten. It was reported that the river was crucial in moisturizing the wood used in the Taj's foundation, and that it could collapse soon.
The bench that had on October 14 taken cognizance of media reports about the danger posed to Taj Mahal and asked the Centre, ASI and the Uttar Pradesh government to examine the issue, expressed “dismay” at the state of affairs.
Terming the affidavits filed by the Mayawati government and the ASI as “far from satisfactory”, the bench said, “We do not understand anything from your (state’s) affidavit.” It expressed regret over the Centre not filing its response in the matter.
The bench also pulled up the ASI for claiming on the basis of an old report that there was no threat to the Taj.
“The CBRI (Central Building Research Institute), Roorkee has carried out Geotechnical and Structural Investigation Survey at Taj Mahal in 2005 and submitted its report in 2007 which shows no visible distress or dislocation is seen at the joints of floor and walls in the basement below Jasmine Floor,” the ASI stated in its affidavit.
Not convinced with the report based on data collected six years ago, the bench remarked: “We are sorry, rather dismayed to say that after 2005 there has been no attempt to examine the Taj…This 2007 report relates back to inspection done in 2005. Nobody has gone deep into the matter. It needs to be examined by experts.”
The court directed the ASI to file a fresh affidavit in two weeks placing on record the latest report of CBRI and Survey of India regarding Taj’s safety and fixed December 7 to further hear the case.
The court was told that the depth of water in the Yamuna near the Taj was just one-meter, four meters less than the required level.
Availability of certain level of water in the Yamuna was essential to maintain the massive foundation that supported a complex system of wells, arches and wooden-spoked wheels and the dry ambience could fragment and disintegrate the massive ‘saal’ wood, it was reported.
According to the report, the foundations of Taj Mahal got rotten and had become fragile as the Yamuna, which feeds the building’s mahogany, (evergreen trees), is running dry owing to deforestation and pollution.
Acting on a public interest petition filed by environmentalist MC Mehta, the SC has been passing orders, including closure of polluting industries in Agra, for conservation of the Taj since the 1980s.
To save the monument from ill effects of pollution, the Centre has set up the Taj Trapezium Zone, a 10,400-square-kilometre area around the monument where strict emissions standards are in place. The ASI too is working on a major facelift for the Taj Mahal since 2007.