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Stop all commercial activities within 500 metres of Taj Mahal: Supreme Court


The apex court of India has directed the Agra Development Authority to immediately stop all commercial activities within a 500-metre radius from the peripheral wall of the iconic Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Supreme court was informed that a similar order was issued in May 2000, but it is right to reiterate the direction, agreed with the submissions, and directed the Agra Development Authority to immediately clear the 500-metre radius of the Taj Mahal of all business activities.

It has been observed that the white marbles of Taj Mahal are turning yellow due to increased pollution in the nearby areas of Taj Mahal. Nano-sized airborne particles of carbon are causing the marble surface of the Taj Mahal to slowly lose its sheen, according to a study into why the iconic monument is getting discoloured.

Senior advocate A.D.N. Rao, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, submitted before the bench that directions should be issued to stop all commercial activities near the Taj Mahal.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka told the Agra Development Authority to ensure compliance with its order in relation to the 17th-century white marble mausoleum.

The order of the apex court came while hearing an application seeking direction to the authorities to prohibit commercial activities within the 500-metre radius of the historic mausoleum.

In its order, the top court said, “We allow the prayer that reads– Direct the Agra Development Authority to remove all business activities within 500 meters from the boundary/peripheral wall of the monument Taj Mahal which shall be in tune with Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

The 500m-radius of the monument is a no-construction zone, besides strict regulations on vehicular movement. There is also a ban on the burning of wood near the monument and municipal solid waste and agriculture waste in the entire area.

The application was filed by a group of shop owners who had been allotted an area outside the 500-metre radius to run their businesses. They told the court that illegal business activities are being carried out near the Taj Mahal which is in gross violation of the previous orders of the top court.

The top court is seized of the matter filed in 1984 related to the protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, and its surroundings.

Environmentalist MC Mehta had filed the plea pertaining to the protection of the Taj Mahal, the fragile ecosystem surrounding it, and construction in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), an “eco-sensitive area” having four world heritage sites including the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The TTZ, established on December 30, 1996, to protect the Taj Mahal from pollution through an order of the Supreme Court, is a 10,400 sq km area spread across the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.

With inputs from agencies.

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