New warning on Taj Mahal

India’s largest state has launched an investigation into whether the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, is sinking into the earth after experts warned about the drying out of a nearby river.

This month two historians pointed out the Taj Mahal may already be tilting and could crumble or sink if the government of Uttar Pradesh, the state in which the Taj is located, did not pay immediate attention to the monument’s immediate surroundings.

Of particular concern is the Yamuna river, which flows close to the Taj Mahal and now trickles rather than flows.

“Dangerous tilts in its minarets, first noticed in 1942 and mentioned in various reports, have continued to increase over the years,” Ram Nath, a former head of history at Rajasthan University, told the Hindustan Times. “They are caused by the dry riverbed.”

Experts say the river water was an integral part of the Taj’s design, used to stabilise the marble domes and minarets. “If the Taj is to be preserved for posterity, the Yamuna must be rescued first,” said Agam Prasad Mathur, a former vice-chancellor of Agra University.

Described as “a teardrop on the cheek of time”, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. It had more than three million visitors last year and celebrated its 350th birthday in September.

In recent years, environmentalists have argued that the pristine white marble edifice was in danger of being destroyed by pollution. Dozens of factories were closed down in and around Agra, the industrial town that has grown up around the Taj.

Many still argue that there has been little improvement in air quality, mostly because nearby hotels have been allowed to run diesel generators, which spew out sooty fumes.

Also swirling around the monument is a scandal about how the local administration allowed construction to begin on a shopping complex in full view of the monument. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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