Openly Burning Garbage around Agra is discolouring the Taj Mahal

Burning city garbage in the open is increasingly discolouring India’s iconic Taj Mahal – a problem that does not require technological fixes as much as more efficient waste management, new research shows.

The white marble of

Taj Mahal © Asitjain / Wikimedia Commons

the Taj Mahal keeps getting bombarded by polluting emissions. The 262nd Report on Effects of Pollution on Taj, submitted to the Rajya Sabha in 2015, noted that despite previous interventions to reduce pollution in Agra’s vicinity, the haze and darkening persist. Previous measures to curb the impact of local air pollution around the Taj Mahal included restricting vehicles near the complex, closing over 200 enterprises in Agra, requiring iron foundries to install scrubbers and filters on their smokestacks, prohibiting new polluting enterprises from being built within a defined buffer zone around the mausoleum and, most recently, banning cow dung cake burning as cooking fuel.

An ignored aspect is the practice of burning garbage, or municipal solid waste (MSW), openly – a practice rampant across Indian cities. Its role as well as that of large-scale burning of crop wastes in north India in winter is increasingly coming under the scanner for their contributing to air pollution.

Moreover, the rapid growth of the city of Agra together with limited MSW management infrastructure has resulted in less effective waste management that leaves large volumes of trash accumulating in the streets. This is from a report by an Indo-American team of scientists, published in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters.

MSW is openly and frequently burned on roadsides and in residential and commercial areas in Agra – as it is done across India. Burning garbage openly leads to the emission and deposition of small, polluting particles, technically called particulate matter (PM), all over the place – from monuments and buildings to deep inside people’s lungs. The Central Pollution Control Board of India estimates that MSW-burning contributes between 5% and 11% of primary particulate emissions from sources within cities.

The study looked at emissions from burning of MSW and dung-cakes. “MSW burning was found to be the main contributor,” says Sachchida Tripathi, a professor at the department of civil engineering and Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, IIT-Kanpur, and one of the study authors.

Read my full report in The Wire :


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