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Taj Mahal is turning green, these are the reasons

Bugs from the polluted Yamuna river near India's Taj Mahal are causing a new threat. Insect droppings are leaving greenish-black patches.

By Ground report
New Update
Taj Mahal is turning green, these are the reasons

Bugs from the polluted Yamuna river near India's Taj Mahal are causing a new threat. Insect droppings are leaving greenish-black patches on the iconic monument's white marble walls.

The Taj Mahal, India’s iconic symbol of love and one of the seven wonders of the world, is facing a peculiar environmental challenge. The pristine white marble of this historic mausoleum is turning green, raising concerns among conservationists and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Goeldichironomus insect

The cause of this discoloration has been identified as droppings from the Goeldichironomus insect, which breeds in the stagnant waters of the Yamuna River behind the monument. The river’s pollution, exacerbated by waste from 52 drains pouring directly into it, has led to an explosive breeding of these pests4. The insects leave greenish-black patches of waste on the Taj Mahal’s walls, compromising its aesthetic beauty and structural integrity.

The ASI is undertaking extensive studies to address the issue, as the stains left by the bugs are washable but pose a risk to the marble’s sheen if cleaned too frequently. Environmental activists have long advocated for cleaning up the Yamuna to prevent such problems, and the recent developments have only intensified these calls for action.

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ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA

Dr. Girish Maheshwari, who leads the School of Entomology at St John’s College in Agra, researched this issue in 2016. He found that the larvae of the Goeldichironomus insect eat algae in the river before they turn into adults. These insects are drawn to the Taj Mahal’s white marble, and when they land and release waste on its walls, they leave green stains because of the chlorophyll in their bodies. This makes them a sign of the water’s quality.

The report by Dr. Maheshwari also says that the growing number of these insects is because of the increasing pollution in the river. The river’s high levels of phosphorus from pollution and sediments make the female insects lay more eggs, sometimes over 1,000 at once.

Why Taj Mahal is  turning green

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has pinpointed ‘Goeldichironomus’ as the insect responsible for the discoloration on the Taj Mahal’s marble surface. This species, first identified in 2015, is notorious for leaving dark brown and green stains on the marble and intricate inlay work. An ASI official noted that the insect flourishes in the Yamuna River’s polluted waters.

Initially, when the brown-green spots appeared on the Taj Mahal in 2015, due to the insect known as Goldie Chironomus, authorities considered it a transient problem. An ASI official explained that the stains were treated with a mudpack, but they have resurfaced every six months, with the exception of 2020 when Agra’s pollution levels were notably low.

Rajkumar Patel, an archaeologist with the ASI, observed that the brown-green spots are found on the monument’s north side, adjacent to the Yamuna River. The ASI’s chemical branch developed a cleaning method for these stains, which involves washing them with distilled water and then gently wiping the surface with a clean cotton cloth.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is planning a year-long study to find a lasting solution to the problem of green stains on the Taj Mahal. These stains are caused by insect poop from bugs that live in the dirty water of the Yamuna River near the monument.

The ASI has noticed that these bugs show up in the Yamuna around March-April and September-October when it’s warm, between 28-35 degrees Celsius. But this year, the stains stayed until late November, which means there are more bugs and they’re breeding for longer. The marble mausoleum had been given this treatment several times in the past: in 1994, 2001, 2008 and 2014.

UP government builds mall near Taj

In November 2002, the Uttar Pradesh state government started building a shopping complex near the Taj Mahal. The then Chief Minister Mayawati explained that the mall was to move shops away from the Taj Mahal, following a Supreme Court order.

The officials claimed that the mall would allow tourists to reach the Taj without passing through the busy, polluted streets.

However, environmentalists strongly opposed the project, arguing that it broke environmental laws and endangered the monument. Ultimately, the plan for the shopping complex was dropped.

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