Carcasses, garbage make abandoned Taj corridor an eyesore

Perched between two World Heritage monuments of the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, it now contains stinking carcasses, graves of children and mounds of rubble that invite mosquitoes, dogs, snakes, crows and vultures - an eyesore that refuses to go away even though Agra is expected to draw a host of Commonwealth Games tourists.

The development of the ambitious corridor development was abandoned in 2003 following protests that it would affect the 17th century Taj Mahal. The matter now lies with the Supreme Court, which has banned any new construction at the site.
There have been numerous petitions and demands submitted to various authorities to clean up the mess.

"They all pass the buck, from the municipal corporation to the Agra Development Authority to the Uttar Pradesh tourism department to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which ends up expressing its helplessness citing court orders," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
He said the authorities should at least try to clean up the area before the Games in Delhi in October. "This is the period when Agra will get a lot more tourists than the daily average of 7,500," he said.

Agra Mayor Anjula Singh Mahaur said it was the duty of central government agencies to ensure cleanliness and prevent people from dirtying the corridor till the Supreme Court takes a final decision on the matter.

The ASI asked for funds to remove the debris. The funds never came. It was later suggested that the Uttar Pradesh forest department should take up greening work, but the proposal did not move forward due to want of resources.

"More than 80 acres of the land have turned into a vast graveyard of animals and a dump yard of construction, road building waste and municipal refuse, polluting the river Yamuna," said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.

"Such insensitivity and nonchalance are indeed condemnable," he said.
Green activist Ravi Singh said: "Right from Delhi to Agra, government agencies and private players have been playing with the land on the flood plains of the river, posing a grave ecological crisis. What the state and central pollution control boards are doing needs investigation."

Talking to IANS, B.B. Awasthi, regional officer of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, said: "Removing dead bodies and dirt is the work of the Agra Municipal Corporation. We can only issue notices. It is not our job to keep the area clean."
The land earmarked for the controversial corridor stinks and there is a real danger of diseases spreading from the area in the heart of a tourist hub, says social activist Sisir Bhagat.

The ambitious 2002-03 Taj Heritage corridor project was aimed to house a shopping mall close to the Taj Mahal, but the project was abandoned amid allegations of large-scale corruption and after a hue and cry that it would endanger the monument.
The Rs. 175-crore project that brought down the Mayawati government in 2003 was meant to link the Taj Mahal with four important monuments -- the Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, Chini-ka-Roja and Rambagh in Agra district.

Now each day scores of foreign tourists visit the site of the controversial project to shoot pictures of the Taj and the Fort from the land earmarked for the corridor.
"The dead bodies of animals and the dirt mounds provide an ugly contrast, juxtaposed against the beautiful Taj," says photographer Vishal.

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