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The BBC's Richard Lister
"Mr Clinton stressed the importance of tackling India's environmental problems"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 00:48 GMT
Taj Mahal pollution plea
President Clinton with his daughter: fulfilling a lifelong ambition
President Clinton with his daughter: fulfilling a lifelong ambition
President Clinton has used the majestic setting of the Taj Mahal to make a plea for greater efforts to combat environmental pollution.

During a tour round the mausoleum and gardens with his daughter Chelsea, President Clinton said it had been a lifelong ambition to visit the Taj.

The Clintons: a dazzling edifice
The Clintons: a dazzling edifice

But he also said that pollution had managed "to do what 350 years of wars, invasions and natural disasters have failed to do. It has begun to mar the magnificent walls of the Taj Mahal."

He said that a constant effort was needed to save it from degradation.

Speaking a short distance from the monument, he announced a series of joint environmental initiatives with India:

  • $200m in US credit guarantees to fund clean energy projects.
  • $20m to extend a programme that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and the use of cleaner fuels.
  • $25m for a programme that promotes the use of energy efficient technologies and services in India.

Mr Clinton also repeated a plea for more work to combat global warming, saying the US and other countries bore a special responsibility for this.

He said the risks of not taking action would be especially acute for developing nations like India.

Taj in trouble

The Taj Mahal - constructed in the 17th Century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan - is a dazzling edifice of marble, jade, turquoise, lapis lazuli and other precious stones.

But its gleaming walls have begun to fade under the effects of pollution from factories and workshops in nearby Agra.

In a bid to preserve it, restrictions have been imposed on industrial activity and on motor vehicles in the vicinity.

However, President Clinton drove to the Taj Mahal in his regular black limousine - although other vehicles in the presidential motorcade were electric-powered.

Other tourists were also kept well away from the presidential entourage.

Taj facade detail
The marble facade is beginning to discolour
One report said the local authorities even opened the underground chamber where the remains of Shah Jehan's wife, Mumtaz Mahal, are.

It has been closed since 1991.

The visit to the Taj was the latest leg of the president's Indian tour - and the first significant bit of sight-seeing.

He is also expect to visit the tourist city of Jaipur as well as a village in Rajasthan and a game reserve at Ranthambore.

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24 Jan 00 | South Asia
Pollution ban on Delhi factories
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