The Taj Mahal, the white-marble tomb built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1648 that has become India's most iconic monument, could soon sink into the sand. The structure's mahogany post foundations, which are sunk into wells fed by the Yamuna River, are said to have become dangerously brittle because the river is drying up due to pollution and deforestation. But a quick-acting government campaign might be able to save it.
Ramshankar Katheria, a member of parliament from the northern Indian city of Agra, where the monument is located, is leading a movement to save it. Katheria warns that "if the crisis is not tackled on a war-footing, the Taj Mahal will cave in between two and five years," the Daily Mail reports.
According to the West Australian, Katheria has launched the idea of building a £71 million ($110 million) dam to maintain the water levels necessary to preserve the foundations. "The river is a constituent of its architectural design and if the riverdies, the Taj cannot survive," the politician said. Any conservation will have to be decisive, though — the Taj Mahal's main structure showed cracks last year, and the four minarets around the monument are tilting due to the weakening of the foundation, Zee News reports.
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Considered a unique example of Persian-influenced Mughal architecture on a grand scale, the monument was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and receives four million visitors annually. When pollution was suspected of yellowing the tomb's white marble façade in 2007, a new policy was instituted requiring cars and buses to park in a lot about one and a half miles from the monument. Visitors then take electric buses or horse-drawn carriages to the site.