Yamuna bugs are causing the world-renowned Taj Mahal of India to turn green, reports say.
Akhilesh Yadav, the Chief Minister of northern Indian state Uttar Pradesh, was alarmed by the reports, prompting him to order an investigation on May 22. He promised to preserve the natural beauty of the World Heritage site.
The stagnant water of the Yamuna river near the Taj Mahal is said to be one of the most significant features that adds beauty to the site. However, the river is now filled with bugs called Goeldichironomus (Chironomus calligraphus), which are now invading the walls of the monument. The resulting effects are patches of greenish black discolorations against the structure's white walls.
The bugs are said to be increasing in number due to the rising pollution in the river. Also, the river has been reduced to a swamp with abundant development of algae and phosphorus contents from ash - the main source of food for the said insects.
The insects particularly invade within a 500-meter radius of the Taj Mahal including the back of the monument and the sides facing the mosque.
Despite this, the State Pollution Control Board does not want to admit that the Yamuna bugs can cause hazards to the Taj Mahal.
Meanwhile, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has expressed concern over the increasing insect attack, but is left helpless as the Yamuna is currently under jurisdiction.
Although the greenish black patches on the walls may be washed off, activist groups see the entire situation as a warning of the effects of environmental degradation to the Taj Mahal.
"The deposit on the Taj is water soluble," says archaeologist Bhuvan Vikram Singh. He adds that concerned parties are trying to clean it with water, but admits that water cannot solve the problem. They know the location and the manner with which the insects grow; if they solve the problem at the fundamental level, they can halt the growth of the bugs and there will be no blemishes noted on the walls.
Aside from the insects, the discoloration on the Taj Mahal may be attributed to its location. The World Heritage wonder is situated in the city of Agra which is recognized to have the highest amounts of atmospheric black carbon in the country.
In 2014, American and Indian researchers observed that the Taj Mahal was turning brown due to dust and airborne carbon particles.