Parts of Taj Mahal are turning green again due to the presence of an insect species called The Chironomus Calligraphus in the dying Yamuna River.
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Parts of the Taj Mahal’s pearly-white exterior are turning green, yet again this summer. According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the culprit is an insect species that is depositing its droppings on the historical monument’s marble surface.
ASI Superintending Archaeologist Raj Kumar Patel told ThePrint that this is a “minor issue that can be easily resolved with some water and cotton”. But environmentalists have raised concerns about what they say is the root cause of the problem: the sewage-filled waters of the Yamuna — on whose banks the mausoleum is located — which is the insects’ breeding ground.
Attributing the greenish spots on the Taj’s surface to the accumulation of excreta of the Chironomus Calligraphus (Goeldichironomus) insect species, the ASI claimed that there was no immediate solution to the problem as the insects bred in the Yamuna.
Speaking to ThePrint, Dr. Praveen Sharma, assistant professor of zoology at BSA (PG) College, Mathura, said that over the past 8-10 years, pollution levels in the river have risen drastically, thereby slowing down water flow and giving rise to swampy conditions near the banks.
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The Chironomus Calligraphus is known to have a short breeding cycle, he explained. Warm temperatures, combined with stagnant water on the riverside, make it ideal ground for these insects to breed. Since the males exhibit swarming behaviour for mating, and are attracted to light, the pristine white surface of the Taj Mahal, shining in the moonlight, acts as a natural beacon, attracting the insects to swarm on its surface.
As the area around the Taj is dark and there is no artificial lighting nearby, the monument becomes inundated with these insects that deposit their excreta on its surface. The droppings turn green after a while, Dr Sharma added.
Meanwhile, Dr Girish Maheshvri, head of the entomology department at St John’s College, Agra, told ThePrint that these insect grow in numbers when pollution levels of water bodies rise. “They form a swarm and are attracted towards sand (stone). The swarming is a result of nuptial flight among the insects. They are attracted towards the Taj. The greenery on the monument’s white marble is partially digested chlorophyll combined with their fecal matter. I don’t think this will cause damage to the stone.”
Artist Jyo John Mulloor used the AI image generator Midjournery to create historical images depicting the construction of the Taj Mahal, which he shared on Instagram.
India is projected to have the world’s highest population by 2050. But so far there’s no political will to install adequate sewage treatment or halt dumping of partially-burned cadavers into rivers. The Hindu priesthood could lead the way on these matters; but that would mean educating believers, wouldn’t it?