India plans to battle pollution staining the Taj Mahal yellow and green

The white marble was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. (Reuters)
Updated 25 July 2018
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India plans to battle pollution staining the Taj Mahal yellow and green

  • The white marble mausoleum is located around 210 kilometers from the capital New Delhi in the northern city of Agra
  • India’s Supreme Court is driving the campaign to protect the country’s most famous monument

NEW DELHI: India has proposed a ban on plastics, polluting factories and construction around its 17th-century monument to love, the Taj Mahal, a government document showed, in a bid to stave off pollution that is turning the structure yellow and green.
The white marble mausoleum is located around 210 kilometers from the capital New Delhi in the northern city of Agra, which the World Health Organization rated in May as the world’s eighth-most polluted.
In a draft document submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, authorities in Uttar Pradesh state, where Agra is located, said they would ban all plastics, switch to electric and hydrogen vehicles, and boost the green cover within the precincts of the Taj, to fight pollution.
“Replacing present-day lawns with tree cover as existed originally will increase the biomass,” the document read.
This step would reduce water consumption to maintain the surrounding garden and boost the water table, besides trapping dust to reduce pollution, the draft added.
India’s Supreme Court is driving the campaign to protect the country’s most famous monument, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The document was submitted after the justices, in a fit of anger during a hearing two weeks ago, demanded that authorities either restore the structure or tear it down.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is flanked by a garbage-strewn river and is often enveloped by dust and smog from belching smokestacks and vehicles.
Environmentalists and historians have long warned about the risk of soot and fumes from factories and tanneries dulling the monument, which also faces attack from insects that stain its marble.
“There have been various studies, various plans, but they have not been implemented in right earnest in a coordinated manner,” said Divay Gupta, an official of the non-profit Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
The draft proposes an integrated environmental and natural heritage management plan, with a special focus on checking air pollution, besides river and water management and conservation.


Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

Updated 21 September 2018
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Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

DUBROVNIK, Croatia: Marc van Bloemen has lived in the old town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely praised as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades, since he was a child. He says it used to be a privilege. Now it’s a nightmare.
Crowds of tourists clog the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily. People bump into each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrian street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” search for the locations where it was filmed.
Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon in which the increase in people traveling means standout sites — particularly small ones — get overwhelmed by crowds. As the numbers of visitors keeps rising, local authorities are looking for ways to keep the throngs from killing off the town’s charm.
“It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says van Bloemen from his house overlooking the bustling Old Harbor in the shadows of the stone city walls.
On a typical day there are about eight cruise ships visiting this town of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists into the streets. He recalls one day when 13 ships anchored here.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can’t feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists,” he said. “It’s chaos, the whole thing is chaos.”
The problem is hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation. UNESCO warned last year that the city’s world heritage title was at risk because of the surge in tourist numbers.
The popular Discoverer travel blog recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any Croatian vacation, but the crowds that pack its narrow streets and passageways don’t make for a quality visitor experience.”
It said that the extra attention the city gets from being a filming location for “Game of Thrones” combines with the cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions.”
It advises travelers to visit other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who gets a ticket to Dubrovnik’s sites, try the delightful town of Ohrid in nearby Macedonia.”
In 2017, local authorities announced a “Respect the City” plan that limits the number of tourists from cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any one time during the day. The plan still has to be implemented, however.
“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, the head of the town’s tourist board.
But while on the one hand she pledged to curb the number of visitors, Vlasic noted with some satisfaction that this season in Dubrovnik “is really good with a slight increase in numbers.” The success of the Croatian national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup, where it reached the final, helped bring new tourists new tourists.
Vlasic said that over 800,000 tourists visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6 percent increase from the same period last year. Overnight stays were up 4 percent to 3 million.
The cruise ships pay the city harbor docking fees, but the local businesses get very little money from the visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on board the ship and spend very little on local restaurants or shops.
Krunoslav Djuricic, who plays his electric guitar at Pile, one of the two main entrances of Dubrovnik’s walled city, sees the crowds pass by him all day and believes that “mass tourism might not be what we really need.”
The tourists disembarking from the cruise ships have only a few hours to visit the city, meaning they often rush around to see the sites and take selfies to post to social media.
“We have crowds of people who are simply running,” Djuricic says. “Where are these people running to?“