India’s most popular tourist destination, the Taj Mahal, is in desperate need of a face lift. The 17th century iconic building has become noticeably stained with brown patches and a coat of green slime as a result of dirty feet, air pollution and millions of mosquito-like insects that are native to the area.
The heritage-listed building in Agra is one of India’s national treasures and was built around four centuries ago by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife.
Last week, India’s Supreme Court called on the company in charge of restoring the building, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), to respond to complaints that they failed to protect the Taj Mahal against damage. The company is accused of neglecting its professional responsibility to ensure the building remained in the best condition despite local pollution.
According to the New York Times, the ASI had been working on a restoration project since 2015 that involved workers on scaffolding manually removing green slime from the walls of the building.
The court was unimpressed with the project and stated that the conservation work was taking too long, “Earlier it was turning yellow and now it is becoming brown and green… it seems you are helpless.”
They suggested the organisation call on outside experts to assess the damage as the company were exerting “a lack of will and expertise”. International assistance with the restoration of the building and the replacement of ASI was seriously considered in the court.
“The problem is that the ASI is not willing to accept that there is a problem. This situation would not have arisen if the ASI had done its job. We are surprised with the way the ASI is defending itself…Perhaps we need to examine solution to prevent the decay of the Taj Mahal without the ASI,” the court said.
Some discolouration of the building is said to be from the green slime that is excreted from the millions of insects that surround the area. These insects have increased due to the pollution and algae in the Yamuna River nearby.
The once white floors have also started to darkened due to the traffic of up to 50,000 barefoot tourists the building attracts daily.
When questioned as to why visitors were not provided with clean socks to protect the cleanliness of the floors, a lawyer for the ASI responded, “We provide socks only to the VIPs.”
According to an air pollution report conducted by the World Health Organisation, 14 out of 15 of the world’s most polluted cities were located in India. Without the proper conservation, the building will only continue to deteriorate due to the increased air pollution throughout the country.