Take a look at any picture of the Taj Mahal in India, and you'll typically see image after image of smiling tourists posing in front to the brilliant white marble structure, pretending to lift it by the finial on its dome or by one of the minarets. In fact, it's one of the most straightforward tourist pictures you'll ever see. However, circle around to the back of the Taj Mahal and you'll find a completely different story.
The Yamuna River runs north of the Taj Mahal and is the largest tributary of India's famous Ganges River. The Yamuna begins in relatively pure form at its source on the Yamunotri Glacier in the lower Himalayas. However, once it reaches New Delhi - one of the largest cities in the world - pollutants from industry and the local populace turn the glacial waters in to a toxic soup. These pollutants also float downstream to Agra, the location of the Taj Mahal.
The Yamuna River near the Taj Mahal — Photo courtesy of jmorgan
However, officials have recently unveiled a highly ambitious plan to turn the Yamuna into a playground for India's burgeoning middle class, and want to clean up the riverbanks along the river near the Taj Mahal by 2015, according to an article in the Telegraph. Even though 21 million people live along or near the banks of the Yamuna, dumping an astonishing 790 million gallons of sewage into the rivers watershed each day, Indian officials feel they can reverse the pollutants and fix the infrastructure in only four years.
Such a project would be a boon for the tourist industry as it would generate millions of Indian Rupees in revenue, but the massive scale of the project may be unrealistic considering the magnitude of people that affect the river each day. However, if the project is successful, developers hope to build gardens, skywalks, and yoga meditation centers along the banks of the Yamuna in order to restore the river to its former glory as a sacred religious and cultural waterway.