Air quality around Taj Mahal stable, UP govt tells Supreme Court

By Hindustan Times on 19 Nov 2017

Air quality around the iconic Taj Mahal has stabilised, though it has not improved in the last 14 years, reveals Uttar Pradesh government’s latest pollution figures of Agra, amid concerns about pollutants discolouring India’s best-known monument.

State’s tourism department claimed in its affidavit to the Supreme Court that yearly average concentration of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the area is steady and within the notified ambient air quality standards.

The data was collected at four air quality monitoring stations - Taj Mahal, Itimad Daulla, Ram Bagh and Nunihai industrial area– Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) set-up under the top court’s supervision.

In Nunihai, the department admitted, NO2 is more than the prescribed standard. SO2 and NO2 are air pollutants and contribute to secondary particulate matter. In Agra it had led to acid rain that reacted with the marble of Taj Mahal, causing damage to one of the world’s seven wonders.

In 1996 the top court cracked down on the industries emitting the toxic gases and ordered their closure. Since then the SC has been monitoring the preservation of the Mughal-era monument.

The UP tourism department provided the data to the SC after it was last week rebuked for not placing a comprehensive plan on Taj Mahal’s conservation.

Even though there has not been a spike in SO2 and NO2 levels the particulate matter (or PM 10) continues to be at least three times the average level. While PM 10 should be 60 microgram per cubic metre, it hovers between 150 and 240 at all the four sites.

The particulate matter is a hazardous mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets suspended in air.

However, the government said the increase in PM 10 has been slow compared to the manifold increase in pollution sources such as increase in vehicles and other commercial activities.

The government maintains it has taken concrete steps to conserve the marble mausoleum built on the south bank of the Yamuna.

As part of its comprehensive preservation plan for the monument, it proposes to construct four new sewage treatment plants (STP) in Agra.

Eight STPs are already operational in the district. The new units will make it possible to check the dirty water coming out of the drains in the Yamuna. There is also a proposal to establish six new CNG stations, which on completion would take up the number of such outlets to 15.

Efforts are on to ensure unobstructed power supply to the city of Agra. Besides, administration is also proceeding to convert private vehicles, which include commercial modes of transportation, to CNG.