It will take 9 years to clean pollution off the Taj Mahal
Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 3:28 PM - Years of air pollution have stained India's Taj Mahal, turning its once-white marble facade into an unsightly yellow.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is using a 'mudpack therapy' to clean the pollution -- but the project will be a lengthy one, with the Times of India reporting it could take up to nine years to complete. Once finished, the process will have to be repeated every 6-7 years if pollution in the area remains at the same level.
The cleaning of the interior has not been included in the plan.
The Taj Mahal is India's top tourist attraction. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Dangerous particulate matter in the atmosphere
In late 2014, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur and the Archaeological Survey of India teamed up to analyze the effects of pollution on the Taj Mahal.
"Our team was able to show that the pollutants discolouring the Taj Mahal are particulate matter: carbon from burning biomass and refuse, fossil fuels, and dust - possibly from agriculture and road traffic," Michael Bergin, a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says in a statement.
According to the BBC, pollution from a nearby oil refinery in the nearby city of Agra is exacerbating the situation.
Mudpack therapy to the rescue
The ASI is applying a 2 mm-thick layer of lime-rich clay to the Taj Mahal. This causes a chemical reaction that scrubs the marble clean. It isn't the first time a mudpack therapy has been applied to the building: Sections of the Taj have been cleaned using the same method in 2008.
Indian officials say crews will only be cleaning small sections at a time so tourism doesn't suffer.
India's air pollution a big problem
India is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world, with studies suggesting the country's air pollution is cutting as much as 660 million lives short by three years on average.
Thirteen Indian cities are now included on the World Health Organization's list of the world's 20 most polluted.
Source: Times of India