Controversial Taj Heritage Corridor takes new green avataar
Agra: The controversial Taj Heritage Corridor, which brought down the Mayawati government in 2003, has now been resurrected in a new “green” avatar along the Yamuna river bank.
A year ago, the then local MP and Chairman of the SC/ST Commission, Ram Shankar Katheria, laid the foundation stone of the new Taj View Garden, sandwiched between the iconic Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.
The Supreme Court some years ago had asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to clean up the debris from the corridor site and develop the 80 acres of reclaimed land as a green buffer to insulate the Taj Mahal from air pollution.
But for want of resources, it took more than a decade for work to start on this ambitious joint project of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, UP Horticulture Department and the ASI.
A Horticulture Department official on the site told IANS: “We have cleared the whole area to develop a green stretch along the Yamuna. This will surely be a new attraction for tourists.”
Till last year, this ugly eyesore between the Taj and the Fort was being used not only as a dumping ground for garbage but also as a place to bury dead bodies of children and animals.
The original corridor project worth Rs 175 crore was to begin from Khan-e-Alam, close to the Taj Mahal, and end two kilometres towards the city behind Agra Fort. It was to be extended later to allow tourists to reach Etmaddaula and Ram Bagh on the other side of the river.
For months, hundreds of tractors, earth movers and machines worked round the clock to dig out silt and deposit it on the riverbank to create a new platform, which was laid with Rajasthani stones.
But after a hue and cry from conservationists that the corridor would endanger the Taj and allegations of large-scale corruption in the project, the central government suspended the work in 2003.
It took a lot of persuasive efforts of environmentalists and local politicians to get work started on clearing the debris and developing the green stretches.
The Taj Mahal now is solidly insulated from air pollutants by a thick green buffer that includes not just the Corridor, but also Mehtaab Bagh across the river, Shah Jahan Garden on the west and the Taj Nature Walk Park on the eastern flank.