ver the centuries, the Taj Mahal has faced all sorts of threats, from yellowing caused by air pollution to wearing of its marble facade from countless tourists touching the walls and tromping through the domed building. Recently, the structure has come under attack from a new enemy: swarms of flies breeding in a nearby river, whose feces are staining the white marble green.
Pollution Is Turning the Taj Mahal Brown
Just a short distance away from the Taj Mahal is the Yamuna River, one of the longest and largest tributaries of the Ganges. The Yamuna is one of the most polluted waterways in India, filled with chemical waste from factories, raw sewage, and heaps of garbage drifting in its currents, NPR’s Julie McCarthy reports. While residents alongside the river have had to deal with the stench and dangerous toxins for years, the river has started to cause serious problems for conservators at the Taj Mahal who are waging a losing battle against an insect species that breeds near the Yamuna.
“This is like a fungus, growing onto the walls. When they see this kind of thing they say 'Taj is getting dirty!' The dirtiness is increasing, that kind of green fungus is increasing day by day,” Shamshuddin Khan, a tour guide at the Taj Mahal, tells James Bennett for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Normally, the flying insects are eaten by fish living in the river, but a combination of water pollution and drought has killed off many of the animals that once lived in the now-stagnant water. Meanwhile, algal blooms and ash from a crematorium that is dumped into the Yamuna have provided the bugs with plenty of food, leading to massive swarms buzzing around region, Katie Mettler reports for the Washington Post. When they pass over the Taj Mahal, their chlorophyll-stained poop imparts its color to the domed monument.
I don't think this will cause damage to the stone," Girish Maheshvri, an entomologist at St John's College, tells Asian News International (ANI). "The deposit on the Taj is water soluble. We are trying to clean it with water.”
The site draws millions of tourists to the region every year, and figuring out how to keep that flow of visitors steady is a major concern for local leaders, Banerjee reports. But while the poop itself may not degrade the white marble that covers the Taj Mahal, scrubbing the green-stained feces off the walls poses a serious problem for conservators, as they run the risk damaging the delicate structure.
"A series of marble panels depicting plant motifs on the walls or reflective tiles used in this part of the monument are becoming disfigured," Bhuvan Vikram, a conservator with the Archaeological Survey of India, which is responsible for maintaining the Taj Mahal, tells Biswajeet Banerjee for the Associated Press.
Rising concerns about the Taj Mahal’s upkeep and how the disfigured marble might harm tourism at the site have led officials to begin looking into ways to get rid of the insects’ breeding pools, but so far no one has been able to come up with a good solution. Experts say that stopping the insects at their source is the best way to deal with the problem, Mettler reports. Hopefully a solution can be found before the Taj Mahal is damaged much more.
“Cleaning the Taj Mahal with water will not solve the problem,” Maheshvri tells ANI. “We know where and how these insects grow, so if we solve the problem at the basic level, we can stop them from growing in numbers and there will be no marks on the Taj.”
ot content to be the home of the "World's Best Pizza," as declared by a recently published guide to global pizza, Naples, Italy is now also the home to the World's Longest Pizza. The finished pie stretched more than a mile along the seafront between the U.S. consulate and the Castel dell'Ovo, reports The Local.
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There's No Place Like Naples for Pizza
Exact distances are important, so let it be noted that this pizza was just over 6,082 feet (1,854 meters) or 1.15 miles, according to the official Guinness World Records. The recipe called for more than 4,400 pounds of flour, 3,500 pounds of tomatoes, 4,400 pounds of mozzarella, 66 pounds of basil, and 52 gallons of oil.
The effort, involving 250 pizza-crafters and six hours, eleven minutes of labor, beat out the previous record-holder constructed by the city of Milan at last year's Milan Expo, a pie that didn't even cover a mile.
“It's absolutely a point of pride for our city, which is the home of pizza,” Alessandro Marinacci from Naples' Pizza Village, the event's co-organizer along with flour producer Caputo, told The Local ahead of the attempt. He also engaged in some mild smack-talk: “What's more, unlike Milan's Expo pizza, our effort will be cooked in the traditional Neapolitan style."
The pizza was, of course, margherita-style, combining basil, tomato and mozzarella, which come in the colors of the Italian flag. Naples is very proud of its pizza tradition, just as Italy as a whole is proud of its culinary creations. For NPR, Laurel Dalrymple reports that legend tells of chef Raffaele Esposito creating the margherita pizza in 1889, in honor of the queen Margherita of Savoy.
Furthermore, the Naples-based Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) asserts that true Neapolitan pizza can only be margherita- or marinara-style (the latter lacks cheese and basil). They feel strongly enough about how these true pizzas should be made that they've applied for official consideration for Neapolitan pizza to be on the Unesco cultural heritage list, reports Danny Lewis for Smithsonian.com. The Intangible Cultural Heritage list includes unique customs and skills—dances, epic storytelling, food and festive events have all qualified.
So the record-breaking pizza is as authentic as it can get, at least according to Neapolitan standards. The makers didn't use rolling pins or machinery to shape the dough into a thin crust. Five custom-designed wood-burning stoves on wheels traveled over the entire sheet of pizza, which was only about a foot-wide, to bake it, Dalrymple writes.
After the record was verified, slices of the delicious pie were distributed and eaten. If, like Naples did to Milan, and as Milan did to the town of Rende, Italy, another municipality challenges this record, those involved with the record-holding pizza says that Naples will answer.
"The record has to be in Naples," Marinacci tells NPR. "It's like Oktoberfest with beer in Munich. We want to identify the city of Naples as where pizza was born."
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