Documenting the ground realities of pollution in Agra

March 11th, 2008 - 10:08 am ICT by admin  

(Book Review)
By Paras Nath Choudhary
Book: “Taj Mahal In Pollution Cauldron”; Author Brij Khandelwal; Publisher: RK Books, Darya Ganj, New Delhi; Price: Rs.175 The earth’s atmosphere bristles with heat-trapping gases and serious changes in climate. If carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere continue at the present rate, a whopping increase in temperature is inevitable by the end of this century with frightening consequences.

It is against this gloomy backdrop that the book “Taj Mahal In Pollution Cauldron” by Brij Khandelwal becomes an important contribution. The 190-page book not only adds to our understanding of various environmental issues but also factually chronicles a city’s war against environmental pollution to conserve its heritage.

The book being essentially Agra-centric deals with various facets of pollution that seriously threaten the Taj Mahal and the city of Agra at some length. The author has, through published news stories, tried to present a comprehensive picture of ground realities and the continuing battle by myriad agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, to make urban India worthy of such priceless monuments as the Taj Mahal and the Fatehpur Sikri complex.

This unique collection of material not only projects the real and the hidden causes for the slow poisoning of the world famous 17th century monument to love, air and river pollution and urban chaos in its totality but is also what could be called a new form of history-writing.

A quarter century’s history of a city in decadence, struggling for survival, has been sincerely presented by the author in this volume that relies heavily on stories and news items released mostly by . Little wonder the material presented is never heavy, boring or dull to read. The headlines are crisp and there is a natural flow in terms of presentation.

In addition to highlighting Agra as an environmentally sensitive area, the author also debates the broad challenges of environmental pollution facing mankind. He argues for a paradigm shift in our ideas and ways of living. To be precise, the book advocates a non-consumerist and environmentally balanced approach to life.

Among other things, the book also barbecues the idea of urban beautification, the obsession with unending technological development and fixing of all problems through science and rationality. The book seeks to argue that humankind is much better served when it stops spoiling for a confrontation with nature.

Criticising those who flaunt their credentials as votaries of “development at any or all costs”, the book refuses to couch seminal ideas into currently fashionable jargons which have become key words in the vocabulary of organisations and people who are suspect and indulging in fraudulent activities.

The book is well edited and its prose is spare and chiselled. It is an essential read for all those who are committed to protecting the environment. The annexure at the end is useful. The fading Taj Mahal on the cover of the book may evoke in the reader’s mind a concrete picture of the greatest crisis of our times.

(Paras Nath Choudhary is a scholar associated with a German university. He can be contacted at parasnath@gmx.net)

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