It might be time to tear down the Taj Mahal before it turns green, India’s top court says.
The Supreme Court of India floated the notion of tearing down the country’s most iconic structure on Wednesday, in a blistering condemnation of efforts to protect it from pollution. The court offered its advice after hearing a petition calling for proper maintenance at the site.
“Either we will shut down the Taj or you demolish or restore it,” the judges told government representatives.
The Taj Mahal’s white marble has been turning shades of yellow and green due to heavy air pollution and contact with insects that thrive in a nearby garbage-filled river.
The Taj was built in the 16th century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The iconic structure is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But the Supreme Court says preserving the structure is becoming a “hopeless cause” due to government failures to adequately cut down on pollution.
The court previously slammed preservation efforts in May, when it said the structure was in danger of turning green.
The site welcomes up to eight million tourists a year, at a cost of approximately $19 per foreign visitor. It’s also a common stopover for visiting politicians.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family posed for photos at the site during his visit to India in February.
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau visits the Taj Mahal
India’s supreme court also criticized the federal and state governments on Wednesday for failing to capitalize on potential tourism-related revenue at the site, which it says is far more picturesque than France’s “TV tower.”
“There is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Perhaps it is nothing compared to Taj Mahal,” the judges said.
India’s federal government has already launched a special committee to address preservation of the Taj Mahal. It also instituted a cap of 40,000 daily visitors earlier this year.
“Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must either walk from parking lots or catch an electric bus,” the Taj Mahal website says.
Polluting factories have been banned from operating within a roughly 50-kilometre radius around the Taj Mahal since the 1990s.
The Supreme Court of India is expected to hear more Taj Mahal-related petitions later this summer.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual for visitors to the site, with no planned closures in the near future.
— With files from Reuters