The Uttar Pradesh government today told the Supreme Court that it was "fully committed" to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development in and around the iconic Taj Mahal and Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ).
TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.
In an affidavit filed in the court, the state government has said they were considering a separate micro-level plan only limited to protection and preservation of monument of Taj Mahal.
It said the provisions for protection and preservation of Taj Mahal have been included in the 2021 master plan of Agra.
"It is respectfully submitted that the state is fully committed to protect the environment and ensure sustainable development specifically in and around the Taj Trapezium Zone," the state said in the affidavit.
The counsel for the state mentioned the matter before a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta and sought permission to file the affidavit. The bench agreed to the submission and permitted the state to do so.
The affidavit was filed in pursuance to the apex court's October 27 order directing the state to submit a comprehensive policy on preservation of Taj Mahal and the TTZ.
The top court had earlier stayed its order directing demolition of a multi-level car parking being built near the Taj Mahal and asked the authorities to maintain status quo at the site.
The affidavit, filed by the Deputy Director of UP Tourism Department, also said the state has approached the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to prepare a policy document to ensure a comprehensive and sustained environmental strategy for future activity in TTZ.
It said the NEERI team had visited the area and gave a preliminary report saying the development of dust-free parking facilities for Taj Mahal should be the immediate priority.
It also said the state government was considering to engage professional institutions in the field of environment protection and preservation such as Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad or School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi or similar reputed institutions.
The state government also said the construction of the multi-level parking near the Taj Mahal was approved by TTZ Authority and was in conformity with NEERI's recommendations.
"The said developmental activity has been undertaken to avoid vehicular movement in the vicinity of the TajMahal even beyond the prohibitory limit of 500 metre.
"This facility will ensure eco-gestation of vehicle due to increasing number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal. The said development activity is thus a necessary sustainable development activity," the affidavit said.
Environmentalist M C Mehta, who had filed a plea seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area, had earlier told the bench that TTZ was an "ecologically sensitive area" and the government should have come out with a comprehensive policy for preservation and protection of Taj.
The apex court, which is dealing with a petition filed by Mehta, has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The historic mausoleum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The top court had earlier passed a slew of directions to protect the monument.
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