Supreme Court today said “ad hoc” measures are not enough to preserve the Taj Mahal for “a few hundred years” and directed the UP government to prepare a comprehensive document with a futuristic vision to protect the historic 17th-century mausoleum for future generations. A bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the steps proposed for the preservation of Mughal-era monument were not enough and the state should come out of its “bureaucratic” approach and explore a long-term steps to protect the Taj. The top court observed that a larger and broader perspective of the entire scenario should be taken into account by the state government and the stakeholders should sit together and come out with ways on how to preserve and protect the monument for the future generations. It said members of the civil society including experts from different fields should be involved in devising a strategy to protect the Taj Mahal. “In our opinion, a detailed and comprehensive vision document and plan with a futuristic perspective which can protect and preserve the Taj and its environs and indeed the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) spread over 6 districts of UP and Bharatput in Rajasthan for a few hundred years at least should be prepared.
“This exercise will require expertise from all stake holders including those concerned with cultural heritage, historical heritage, environment and wildlife. The concerned authorities will consult not only officials but also persons from the civil society including the petitioner M C Mehta, who has spent more than 33 years in making efforts to protect the Taj and its environs,” the bench said. TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan. During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta placed an affidavit, filed by the TTZ Authority, stating the proposed measures to be taken for the protection and preservation of the Taj.
He said a number of measures have been proposed including ban on construction activities within 500 metres from the monument, plying of only CNG vehicles near Taj, sufficient supply of electricity to discourage use of generator sets and complete prohibition of burning of waste and garbage. The top court posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks. On November 20, the apex court had rapped the UP government for not coming out with a comprehensive policy to protect and preserve the beauty of Taj Mahal, saying “we need sustainable development”.
The bench had also asked TTZ authority to explain why it was not holding meetings every two months as was expected. On November 15, the apex court had directed the state to file a comprehensive policy with regard to pollution in TTZ and nearby areas to preserve the monument. It had taken strong exception to the state not filing a comprehensive policy before it despite assurances. The state had said that a policy has been prepared by the TTZ, which was an independent authority. It had earlier stayed its order directing demolition of a multi-level car parking being built near the Taj Mahal and asked the authorities to maintain status quo there.
Environmentalist M C Mehta, who had filed a plea seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area, had earlier told the bench that the TTZ was an “ecologically sensitive area” and the government should have come out with a comprehensive policy for preservation and protection of the Taj. The apex court, which is dealing with Mehta’s petition, has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.