The next time you visit Agra to watch Taj Mahal, don't mind if you have to walk half-a-kilometer distance for gaining entry. Authorities of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have barred vehicles from getting close to the portals of the Taj.
The latest step has been taken following the Supreme Court's directives to protect white-marbled historical monument from pollution.
Barricades have been put in place 500 metres from the main entrance to prevent traffic.
Even Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-run vehicles and cycle rickshaws have been disallowed to get close to the main gate.
Though taken in the larger interest of safeguarding the eloquence of world famous Taj Mahal, the new arrangement is causing a bit of inconvenience to many visitors. They have to walk nearly half a kilometers to reach the monument of love that was recently enlisted as the 7th Wonder of the World by UNESCO.
"It is difficult to get in as we have to walk down half a kilometre in such s hot weather. I was very tired and I think it's better if the auto-rickshaws and bicycle-rickshaws are allowed," said Tomokoyoto, a Japanese tourist
Pollution has been a matter of concern and also its security aspect, a fact that has compelled the authorities to restrict vehicles from nearing the Taj Mahal.
But among the most affected are the auto-rickshaw drivers, who question the step that prevents even their CNG-run vehicles, which do not pollute the environment.
"The main reason for restriction was that petrol-run vehicles cause pollution. But why the CNG-run vehicles are being made to suffer for them?," said Munna Lal, one auto rickshaw driver.
The only exception to the restricted area is the labeled vehicles.
The Regional Traffic Office has issued permission only to those people who have been living around the monument for many years. This permit sticker is stuck on their vehicle which allows them entry near the gate.
"According to the Supreme Court, there is no objection for non-polluting vehicles. Pollution is no doubt the main cause but traffic control is another matter of concern. If we allow CNG auto rickshaws, all of them will move towards Taj Mahal which will cause chaos and controlling them would be difficult. So this rule is only for the people staying around that area," said Sonkiya, an official of the Regional Transport Office.
The analytical figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have alarmed conservationists and environmentalists here who have demanded concrete measures to control heavy traffic movement in and around the Taj Mahal.
It has been noticed that the suspended particulate matter (SPM) level in the atmosphere too has gone up alarmingly because of the dry Yamuna riverbed and mining activity along the Aravali range in Bharatpur District of the neighbouring Rajasthan.