Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trouble for the Taj - Water Woes to Blame

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
I added an entry in my "movies including wells" listing a while back on a Smithsonian Channel documentary on the famed Taj Mahal, in Agra, India.  It's well-related factoid is that basically the entire foundation of the tomb-part of the structure was built on a grid of groundwater wells dug and filled with material for adequate support.

There is now much angst within India over the structural problems of the iconic Taj Mahal since the adjacent Yamuna River is far over-used, polluted, and drying up along with local groundwater levels dropping far too quickly - reported at 5 feet per year in the immediate vicinity.  It is the dropping groundwater levels that are drying out the 358+-year old mahogany piles used inside the lattice of wells to support the structure.  In the drying out process these posts become brittle and start to disintegrate.  Recent reports claim cracks have appeared in the tomb over the past year and that the 4 minarets are showing signs of excessive tilting - a structural collapse looming, according to some, in as few as 5 years.  A group has been set up to deal with the preservation, but claim a lack of funding is why nothing has been done since 2003.

They must have known something was afoot all along, because according to the Smithsonian Channel, one of the foundation wells was left open purposely for an observation well.  A 350-some year old record of on-site water levels should be a pretty good data set I'd think.  Groundwater declines always seem to be a problem - first it's land subsidence, drying up of wells and water supplies, loss of wetlands, river baseflows and deep rooted flora.  Now it's dessication of monument foundations. 

Here's hoping the government can solve this problem.  The Taj Majal is indeed in the top 3 list of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in the world - ever. 

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