NEW DELHI — Amidst reports pointing at the discolouration of Taj Mahal, a parliamentary panel has recommended that a "multi-pronged" strategy be adopted to preserve the "pristine beauty" of the monument and asked the Archeological Survey of India to submit at the earliest an action plan for the same.
The committee for Demands for Grants (2015-16) for Environment Ministry also asked the government to "vigorously" implement a long-term strategy for developing and environmentally preserving the Yamuna river catchment area around Taj and check vehicular pollution in the historic city.
"A multi-pronged strategy is needed to address the challenge of preserving the pristine beauty of the Taj Mahal, for which the committee has made some suggestions.
"ASI should submit an action plan at the earliest and take immediate steps to protect Taj Mahal. A long-term strategy for developing and environmentally preserving the river Yamuna catchment area around the Taj as also ensuring mitigation of vehicular pollution in and around Agra ought to be vigourously implemented," the committee said.
The committee, headed by former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar, also recommended that afforestation should begin forthwith in the area surrounding the iconic mausoleum.
The committee took note of a study conducted by two IIT, Kanpur, scientists which states that discolouration of Taj Mahal was taking place due to particulate carbon and dust deposits arising from combustion of fossil fuels and biomass.
The committee observed that despite efforts "claimed" to have been made by the Environment Ministry, Taj Trapezium Zone Authority, UP Pollution Control Board and ASI, pollution continues to affect the world heritage site and the "sorry" state of affairs clearly indicates that the authorities concerned had "failed" to discharge their duties.
The committee also said that for environmental management at heritage, pilgrimage and tourist centres, including Taj Protection Mission, no outlay has been earmarked and only a token amount of Rs 1 lakh at the Budget Estimates (BE) level was allocated under the Plan head in 2014-15, out of which "not even a penny" was utilised.
"This year again, a token amount of Rs 1 lakh has been allocated under the Plan Head. (Asked) about the allocation of the token amount, which was not going to serve any meaningful purpose, the ministry informed that no central plan was made or utilised under the Taj Protection Mission in the last two years," the committee observed.
It said the ministry has declared that a Comprehensive Environment Management Plan (CEMP) for Taj Trapezium Zone was received from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in January of 2012.
It further said that the secretary of Agra Development Authority had written to the secretary of the Uttar Pradesh environment department on February 7, 2012, forwarding the CEMP and a list of 22 new projects for concurrence and onward transmission to the Centre for consideration in the 12th Five Year Plan.
"However, despite several reminders and pursuation, no proposal has been forwarded by the UP government.
"The committee hopes that the UP government forwards the CEMP for Taj Trapezium Zone prepared by NEERI and 22 new projects to government of India for concurrence and recommends that the Environment Ministry should pursue the issue of protection of Taj Mahal from pollution with the state government," the committee noted.
A think-tank on environmental issues in India had recently said that the "exact" causes for discolouration of Taj Mahal are yet to be established and emphasised the need to ascertain the key reasons for the damage to the monument for taking proper mitigation action.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), however, said that emission of black carbon particles from vehicles and other polluting units continue to dull the sheen of the monument.