Pollution turns famous India Raj monument yellow

KOLKATA, India, July 16 Mon Jul 16, 2007 4:29pm IST

KOLKATA, India, July 16 (Reuters) - Poisonous fumes, dust and smog are staining the white-marbled Queen Victoria Memorial, one of India's best-known landmarks from the days of the British empire, a leading environmental agency warned on Monday.

The monument, built a century ago when Kolkata - then known as Calcutta - was the capital of British-ruled India, is turning yellow, according to the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).

NEERI sent a report last week to the Kolkata High Court recommending measures, including limiting traffic around the Queen Victoria Memorial, to save it from further destruction.

"Our findings were crystal clear and crisp and we believe and trust that our observation will help," a senior NEERI official, who requested not to be named, said on Monday.

Built in the early 20th century, the memorial houses one of the world's longest paintings -- an elephant procession -- among some 3,000 exhibits in 25 galleries.

A bronze statue of Queen Victoria is enthroned at the entrance and the dome is inscribed with the text of her imperial proclamation speech.

"The white marble is turning yellowish due to pollution, and plasters have peeled off in many chamber walls," Bimal Bandyopadhyay, a senior archaeologist said.

This is not the first Indian monument to face problems from growing air contamination. A parliamentary report this year warned that India's Taj Mahal was turning yellow due to pollution.

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