Indian judges have threatened to shut the Taj Mahal amid accusations that the authorities have neglected the 17th-century monument.
The country’s Supreme Court said environmental damage to the white marble Taj was a “hopeless cause” and said the federal government and the administration in Uttar Pradesh state had missed out on “incalculable” revenue by letting it fall into disrepair.
“Either we shut down the Taj or demolish it or you restore it,” the two-judge bench told the authorities. They were responding to a petition by an environmental activist concerned over the state of one of the world’s seven wonders.
In their observations on the Taj, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum to his wife in Agra, the judges compared it to the Eiffel Tower.
“Eighty million people visit the Eiffel Tower, which looks like a TV tower,” the judges said. “Our Taj is more beautiful and if you had looked after it, your foreign exchange problem would have been solved [through more visitors].”
The once-gleaming Taj has become badly discoloured, turning yellow, green and brown in the past three decades because of pollution from industry and households.
Additionally, insects that breed in the rubbish-choked Yamuna river have infested the monument, their excrement further staining the marble.
The federal government told the court a study of the problem was being carried out by the Indian Institute of Technology, which was due to report in four months.