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.


Irresistible Istanbul: Turkey’s cultural capital

Updated 22 April 2019
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Irresistible Istanbul: Turkey’s cultural capital

  • The historic city — part European, part Asian — still has the power to capture hearts

DUBAI: Although the bulk of Istanbul’s historic sites lie across the Golden Horn in Sultanahmet, there’s something magnetic about Beyoğlu. It personifies Istanbul’s confidence and economic energy, is at the heart of the city’s most exciting nightlife, and has acted as a battleground for Istanbul’s modern cultural identity.

It is also home to the city’s main commercial artery — Istiklal Avenue, a wide pedestrianized thoroughfare that stretches from the steep cobbled gradients of Galata to the vast open space of Taksim Square. For most of the year it is populated by an endless sea of people either wrapped up against the onset of winter or basking in the glory of spring and summer.

Beyoğlu is where you’ll find much that relates to the world of art and culture. Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel laureate and author of novels including “My Name Is Red” and “Snow,” lives and breathes the district’s neighborhoods. You can follow in his footsteps if you like, tracing your way from Sahaflar Carsisi, the used-book bazaar that he used to frequent as a child, to the The Museum of Innocence and its quirky minutiae of 20th-century Istanbul life. The latter was created by the author as a companion to his novel of the same name and is located in a 19th-century timber house in Cukurcuma.

Then there’s the food. Take Ficcin as an example. Spread across a number of venues on either side of Kallavi Street, this wonderful restaurant serves both classic Turkish cuisine and Circassian specialties. That means kofta, artichokes, grilled chicken and an aubergine salad with yoghurt and garlic, and specials such as manti (Turkish dumplings) and the dish that the restaurant is named after — a meat-filled savory pastry baked like a pizza.

If you’re looking to stay in the Beyoğlu area, not far from Ficcin is the Pera Palace Hotel, a late 19th-century masterpiece designed by the French-Ottoman architect Alexandre Vallaury. Renovated and refurbished just under a decade ago, its grand, high-ceilinged interiors are awash with dark reds, velvet and gold, while the colors of the lobby, tea lounge and library are deeper and richer than when Agatha Christie and a cavalcade of early 20th-century celebrities made it their hotel of choice.

A short stroll from the Pera Palace is the former medieval Genoese citadel of Galata, now known as Karaköy and lying at the southern end of Istiklal. Its central, striking feature is the Galata Tower, built by the Genoese in 1348 and a reminder of the wonder of Istanbul’s pre-Ottoman past. Karaköy’s steep cobblestone streets are sprinkled generously with cafés and boutiques selling everything from Orientalist soap tins to Turkish towels and there’s a relaxed, laid-back kind of vibe.

From Galata you can walk down to the shores of the Golden Horn, crossing the Galata Bridge towards Sultanahmet and the district of Fatih (once the Byzantine city of Constantinople). It is here that you’ll realize the full impact of Istanbul’s allure. In peak holiday seasons it will be almost impossible to move within the maze of alleys that make up the Grand Bazaar, a colossal covered market that covers 64 streets and has 22 separate entrances. It’s easy to get lost, which is part of the appeal, but with up to half a million people visiting every day it can get extremely claustrophobic.

For a more sedate experience (although expect queues), Sultanahmet is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to both the Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. At the latter you can sit beneath the continuous vaulted arcade that surrounds the mosque’s great courtyard, or marvel at the grandeur of its interiors, while the former’s magnificent giant dome and stunning mosaics remind you of Istanbul’s Byzantine past.

All of Sultanahmet’s main historic attractions are within easy walking distance of each other, including the Topkapi Palace, with its lavish courts and holy relics, and the underground delights of the Basilica Cistern. The sites are also within 10 minutes’ walk or so of the Ajwa Hotel Sultanahmet, a fully halal luxury boutique hotel that first opened just under two years ago.

If you find the time, head to Pandeli. First opened in 1901, the restaurant is reached via a steep set of stairs near the entrance to the Spice Bazaar and is defined as much by its shimmering blue iznik tiles as it is by its traditional Turkish food. Expect views of Eminonu Square and delights such as lamb stew served on a bed of mashed roasted aubergine.

One thing’s for sure, visitors to Istanbul will not be bored. The many delights of this city straddling two continents could keep anyone busy for months. As the French poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine wrote in the 19th Century, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”