India’s Supreme Court has ordered those responsible for the conservation of the Taj Mahal in Agra to undertake regular meetings to address concerns over the stability of the structure.
The order to form the task force, which will be led by Agra divisional commissioner K Mohan Rao, comes following a petition brought by environmentalist and lawyer M C Mehta.
Mehta has petitioned the Indian courts for several decades to force action over the structural condition of the Taj Mahal. Following Mehta’s latest petition call for work to save the historic structure, judges agreed and ordered regular hearings involving all those responsible for the building’s conservation - the state and federal governments, and the Archaeological Survey of India.
The court criticised the “lethargy” of state and federal officials towards the fate of India’s most famous building.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said: Taj Mahal should be protected. However, if such an indifference of officials continues then it should be closed down. Even then if things do not shape correctly, then the authorities should demolish it.”
According to the petition by Mehta, the continued low water levels in the Yamuna and lowering ground water levels is continuing to cause the wooden piles supporting the Taj Mahal to dry out, resulting in rotting of the wood.
Mahta said that the pre-monsoon depth of the water table in Agra has been declining steadily for decades. In the 1980s, pre-monsoon groundwater levels were 15m below ground level but that has now reached 35m below ground level.
Mahta is calling for the task force to work to restore the Yamuna to its original water level in order to save the piled foundations from weakening further.