NEW DELHI (AP) — Air pollution is turning the Taj Mahal, India's famed white-marble monument to love, a decidedly unromantic yellow. But as with many aging beauties, a therapeutic mud pack has been recommended to restore its natural allure.
A report put before India's Parliament on Monday said that despite efforts taken by the government to preserve the 17th-century edifice, pollution was taking its toll.
The coloring was blamed on high levels of "suspended particulate matter" — or tiny granules of dirt in the air — generally caused by burning fossil fuels and dust.
"The deposition of SPM on the shimmering white marble of the Taj Mahal imparts yellow tinge to the marble surface," the report by a Parliamentary committee said.
The committee based its findings on data from the Air Pollution Monitoring Laboratory in the city of Agra, set up to monitor the effects of air pollution on the iconic building.
Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, is about 130 miles southeast of India's capital, New Delhi.
The report said while levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the air were acceptable, high levels of particulate matter were a constant, except during the brief rainy season.
Currently, to cut back on pollution, cars and buses are not allowed to drive to the Taj Mahal but to a parking lot about 1 ½ miles away, where visitors can take battery-run buses or horse-drawn carriages to reach the monument.
The report recommended applying a special mud pack to the building to restore its alabaster look.
"To restore the pristine glory of the Taj Mahal, as a conservation measure, the clay pack treatment which is non-corrosive and non-abrasive (should be) carried out for the removal of the accretionary deposits," the report said.
The white-marbled domed monument was built by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan between 1632 and 1654 for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It houses their graves and a mosque, as well as several other graves of lesser Mogul royalty.
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