Taj Mahal (Golden Temple) to be under pollution scanner 24x7

Worried over reports about India’s most loved monument Taj Mahal turning yellow due to pollution, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has woken up to the imminent threat to Golden Temple, Sikhs’ holiest shrine. In an effort to keep the Golden Temple’s sheen intact, the PPCB is all set to install Punjab’s first continuous monitoring station (CMS) at the temple considering the high levels of pollution caused by vehicular traffic, gold refinery industrial units and hotels in the vicinity of the shrine.

However, the recommendations of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to check pollution around the temple are yet to be fully implemented. The CMS will measure the ambient air quality around the Golden Temple.

Executive engineer of PPCB Kuldip Singh told TOI on Wednesday that the Rs 100-crore CMS would measure the presence of sulphuric or nitric acid, which could damage the Golden Temple. He said the PPCB had received Rs 55 lakh from Centre and Rs 27.5 lakh from Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) while Amritsar Municipal Corporation is yet to deposit its share of Rs 27.5 lakh.

Two more continuous monitoring stations would also be installed in Punjab at Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh, he said.

Already an ambient air quality monitoring system is installed at Golden Temple which is being operated twice a week for collecting samples. In January 2008, the CPCB, along with PPCB, had held a survey to study the source of pollution around Golden Temple and suggested appropriate measures to control it.

IIT-Delhi had also conducted a study and had given their recommendations for preventing damage to gold plating of the roof, frescos, marble and wood works.

The CPCB had recommended ban on vehicular traffic around 500-metre radius and industrial activities.

PPCB had also asked the gold manufacturing and refinery units stop using coal furnaces and replace them with gas operated furnaces. Burning of coal was causing irreparable damage to the marble and gold plating of frescos in the temple. However, several gold refining units were still using the coal for furnaces.

Kuldip said the administration had controlled the vehicular movement especially diesel-operated automobiles. Administration has also introduced some e-rickshaws.

SGPC additional secretary D S Bedi said it had already reduced the time for fireworks on various religious occasions, replaced wood fuel for langar with LPG and solar energy. He said the administration should ensure coal burning by industrial units besides checking vehicle movements. He said the SGPC had also given a green cover on the roof of parikarma by planting shrubs.

Pollution levels around Golden Temple

Suspended Particulate Matter: 296-586mg/m3 (permissible: 100mg/m3)

Nitrogen oxide: 28-46mg/m3 (permissible: 30mg/m3)

Sulphur dioxide: 10-19 mg/m3 (permissible: 30mg/m3)

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