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AP Photo/Gurinder Osan
A hazy view.
DIRTY HARRY HOUDINI

The toxic smog’s next trick: making the Taj Mahal disappear

By Maria Thomas

Over the past few days, tourists visiting the magnificent Taj Mahal have barely been able to view it. The deadly smog that has made normal breathing impossible in large parts of northern India, particularly in Delhi, has rendered the iconic monument almost invisible.

The city of Agra, where the Taj is located, is a little over 200km away from the national capital and, over the past few days, it, too, has recorded hazardous levels of particulate matter (PM). The pollution has frustrated many a tourist’s quest for that perfectly clear Instagram photo of the famed dome and minarets.

To be sure, in some cases the fog added a pretty sweet filter effect with beautiful results:

Rising vehicular pollution and smog are threatening historic monuments, besides, of course, the health of millions of urban Indians. The Taj Mahal’s pristine white marble has been yellowing over the years, thanks to dust and carbon deposits from the rising number of cars. A 2015 study revealed that pollution levels in Agra are even higher than those in Delhi and other neighbouring areas.

With panicky Delhi residents buying up extra supplies of anti-pollution masks and air purifiers, Agra’s locals may soon follow suit. But what will protect the Taj?