NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court has ordered a state government to remove a wood-burning crematorium from near the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution damage.
The judges said Monday the Uttar Pradesh government could either move the crematorium or install an electric one in its place.
They ruled after a letter from another Supreme Court judge, who said that he'd noticed the mausoleum spewing smoke and ash during a recent visit to the monument and was concerned about the effect of air pollution on the marble structure.
In their order, the two judges suggested that the state could move the wood-burning crematorium and also build an electric one at the current site. This would allow people wanting to use wood pyres to do so, while others could use the electric crematorium, they said.
Hindus traditionally cremate their dead using wood fires. The government has been trying to encourage people to use electricity-powered crematoriums.
With its gleaming dome and graceful spires, the Taj Mahal is one of the world's most recognizable buildings, visited by more than 3 million tourists a year.
With its domes and minarets, semi-precious stone inlays and carvings, the monument is considered the finest example of Mughal art in India. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
On the banks of the Yamuna River in the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal was built in the 17th century by Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child.
The once-pearly white Taj Mahal has been yellowing due to pollution. The government has closed scores of nearby factories and has tried to provide uninterrupted power supply in Agra so that residents do not have to use diesel-operated generators.
Earlier this year, the state government banned the burning of cow dung fuel cakes by city residents to prevent the dense black smoke from affecting the Taj. Dried cow dung cakes are commonly used in rural areas as a cheap source of fuel for heating and cooking.
The court ordered the government of Uttar Pradesh to decide on its crematorium plans within 15 days.