The SC had asked UP government and ASI to submit the vision document for the protection of Taj Mahal.
New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted time till November 15 to the Uttar Pradesh government and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to submit the vision document for the protection of the Taj Mahal to restore it to its pristine glory.A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta gave time on a request from Addit-ional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who sought more time for filing the document. At the outset, he told the bench that it would be difficult to declare Agra a heritage city.
Justice Lokur asked the state government to consider declaring certain portions of the area surrounding the Taj Mahal heritage so that the character of the ancient monument could be preserved. The ASG told the court that the Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environ-mental Planning and Technology was assisting it on declaring areas as the heritage city and that it would consider the court’s suggestion.
The court had earlier asked the expert panel to prepare a complete vision document incorporating all suggestions including the one to increase the forest cover in the Taj Trap-ezium Zone (TTZ). They should also take note of the industries in the zone and pollution caused by them. The TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq km spre-ad over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Math-ura, Hathras and Etah in UP and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.
In the last hearing, the court was upset with the damage being caused to the Taj and it had orally observed, “Either Taj should be preserved or demolished”. and asked the Centre and others to have a coordinated effort in preparing a vision document. The court observed, “If the Taj Mahal goes once, you will not get a second chance (sic).”
Meanwhile, the Centre told the court that it had communicated to the UP government to send a proposal to declare Agra a heritage city. It said that the ASI was in the process of preparing a heritage plan for the Taj Mahal and the same would be filed with UNESCO within three months.
The petitioner had told the court that the authorities have done nothing to prevent encroachment in and around the Taj.
Meenakshi Dhote, an expert who prepared the draft vision document, also submitted that the list of 1,167 industries in the TTZ given to the court is incorrect. She said, “The UP government which gave us a list of industries, later said it was an incorrect list.”
She said in 1996 there were 511 industries and now it has gone up to 1,167. But the forest cover is 6 per cent and it hasn’t increased. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on November 29