With Taj Mahal turning a bit green, Indian court gets mad

NEW DELHI — The Taj Mahal, that shining white monument to love, is turning a little ... green. And yellow. And black.

And India's Supreme Court is not pleased.

"You all appear to be helpless," a Supreme Court judge told government officials earlier this week, after an environmental lawyer argued that pollution and insect dung were discoloring the 17th-century building.

"Money should not be the consideration. We might order you to hire experts from within India or abroad. We need to save it," the judge said, according to numerous Indian media reports. The reports did not give the judge's name.

The officials, representing the central government and Uttar Pradesh state, where the Taj is located, were given until Wednesday to come up with a plan and report back to the court.

Built by Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife in the north Indian city of Agra, the monument has been losing its sheen for years. The Archaeological Survey of India, the agency responsible for preserving the country's monuments, has been coating portions of the Taj with a special clay that, when it is removed, also takes away most discolorations.

But M.C. Mehta, the lawyer who brought the case to the court, said not enough is being done.

"The white sheen is disappearing and instead of that if the green color, the brown color, the other colors ... are visible, then what is the reason? The reason is that the pollution has become alarming," he said in an interview after the hearing.

One of the world's most famous tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal includes a mosque and the graves of the emperor and his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Agra is a major north Indian industrial center, and the city is often covered with a fog of pollution. Experts say air pollution and swarms of breeding insects are threatening the Taj by leaving green, yellow and black patches.

Mehta said authorities have not complied with earlier Supreme Court orders to protect the Taj by shutting down area factories.

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