Pollution impact on monuments slow but long lasting

Sunday, Apr 17, 2016,14:00 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

New Delhi | While human life has perennially been under threat of pollution, monuments haven’t been spared either and are being adversely impacted by contaminated air, experts say. Among the most evident symptoms of an affected  monument, particularly those built in white marble or limestone is the gradual yellowing of the walls, similar to what has been happening to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, generated by vehicles and industries, react with air moisture to form acids that eat into the marble resulting in change of colour and even corrosion.

The latest casualty in Delhi is the Lotus Temple, which in the present day, stands amidst alarming traffic chaos and is subjected to vehicular emissions which may have been contributing towards the graying of the monument.

The structure which is the last of the seven Bahai’s temples in the world, is made of porous Pentelikon marbles that was used to construct ancient monuments in Greece. Academic, activist and writer Sohail Hashmi says that to realise the harm met out to the monuments on an elementary level, all one has to do is to rub a wet handkerchief on the wall of the monument.

A black, grimy muck comes off. But, it is not just dust. It is the unburnt fuel from the vehicles and the sulphur fumes from the industry. These get into the cracks and get accumulated over time. The acid rain seeps in and damages the monuments, says Hashmi.

The white limestone doors in Red Fort that were revived in 2010 during the Commonwealth Games have become yellow in about 6 years. This is what pollution does, he says. According to a previous statement by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the damage done by pollution is irreversible and only further damage can be restrained.

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