India Seeks Help as Taj Mahal Changes Color

'Privatization' of monument alarms critics
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2018 3:42 AM CDT
An Indian laborer waters an under-construction wall near the Taj Mahal monument in Agra, India.   (AP Photo/RS Iyer)
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(Newser) – India's most famous monument is slowly turning from white to yellow, brown, and green—and the country's Supreme Court is accusing the government of not caring. At a hearing Tuesday, India's top court ordered the government to seek advice from overseas and spend whatever it takes to fix the Taj Mahal, the BBC reports. "Even if you have the expertise, you are not utilizing it. Or perhaps you don't care," justices said after reviewing photographs of the decaying 17th-century monument, which is being turned yellow and brown by smog, and green in places by insect dung. Local factories have been closed and a mud treatment to remove stains is underway, but environmentalists say the problem keeps getting worse.

The court order comes as controversy rages over the Indian government's plan to allow private firms to take over the maintenance of historic sites such as the Taj Mahal, a move that critics say amounts to privatizing the country's heritage, CNBC reports. The Dalmia Bharat conglomerate has been approved to run the Taj under the "Adopt a Heritage" plan and will be allowed to put up advertising and set ticket prices in return. KJ Alphons, India's tourism minister, tells the Washington Post that the move is necessary because underfunded government agencies are failing to take proper care of the sites. "Not one monument or site in India is visitable," he says. "They are stinking dirty." (The Taj Mahal is on a list of places not to visit in 2018.)

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