Norms Go Up in Smoke as ‘Illegal’ Brick Kilns Mushroom Around Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal is the most iconic example of Mughal architecture.

Officials of the United Nation Environment Programme were of the view that Agra’s tourism industry has hit a major low for the past few years owing to aggravated air pollution.

NEW DELHI (IANS) — Smoke-emitting chimneys of brick kilns, mushrooming in and around Agra, seem to be the cause for discoloration of the majestic Taj Mahal. Agra at present has 110 brick kilns out of which 47 do not have licence and NOC from the pollution board, says the latest report of the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) on the status of brick kilns.

Besides Agra, if the area falling under Taj Trapezium Zone (comprising the adjoining districts of Mathura, Hathras, Firozabad, Aligarh, and Etah) is taken into account, over 600 brick kilns are running without licence. So far, only two brick kilns out of 47 in Agra have been booked under the Air Act of 1991. Though notices have been issued to all, the regional office of UPPCB has failed to muster courage in taking strict action against the owners of the brick kilns, some of whom have the backing of local politicians.

For the marvelous marble structure of Taj, the threat of air pollutants does not end here. Researchers from IIT Kanpur, who are conducting a study to assess the reasons behind the pollution damage being caused to the Taj Mahal, have indicated that harmful pollutants are present in Agra’s atmosphere. Industries ranging from brick kilns to foundries in the Taj Trapezium Zone seem to be the main culprits.

The researchers from IIT Kanpur have taken samples from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) monitoring centres at the Saheli Burj in Taj Mahal. The samples were sent to one of the most advanced labs of CPCB in Chennai. If the report on completion indicates a threat to the Taj Mahal, the government would have to consider relocating the smoke-emitting industries and brick kilns from Agra and its neighbouring districts.

On the issue of mushrooming brick kilns in Agra district, the Chief Environmental Officer of the UPPCB, R.K. Singh told IANS that efforts are being made to register cases against the owners of the brick kilns who have not taken the NOC or have not being adhering to norms. “We have instructed the Regional Office at Agra to take strict action against erring brick kiln owners. Efforts are also being made to stop all big diesel generators sets running in the district,” he added.

UPPCB has promised that tough measures would be taken to ensure that Taj Mahal is spared of any kind of pollution.

The office of CPCB is concerned about the growing pollution threat in Agra. CPCB has been monitoring the atmosphere in the city of Taj separately for the past several years.

Meanwhile, on World Environment Day on June 3, the United Nations launched a comprehensive action plan to control air pollution in Agra. This covers vehicle emission control, suspension of road dust, emission control such as biomass, garbage and municipal solid waste burning, industrial emission, air pollution from construction and demolition activities and monitoring of air quality, among others.

Officials of the United Nation Environment Programme were of the view that Agra’s tourism industry has hit a major low for the past few years owing to aggravated air pollution. The Supreme Court has also directed the state government to take measures to tackle Agra’s growing air pollution woes.

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