The gold plating and marble surface of the holiest Sikh shrine, Golden Temple are losing their sheen, thanks to the rising pollution in the holy city. This has made the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) getting it cleaned frequently.
To monitor the ambient air quality within and around the Golden Temple, an air quality monitoring station was set up on its premises in 2016.
As per data assessed by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), the quantity of air pollutants that affect the gold plating and marble surface is increasing.
“Multiple types of pollutants contribute to the pollution that cast a shadow on the sheen of the gold plating. These gases have a tendency to oxidize the gold metal. During oxidation, a layer of metal oxide starts taking a shape on the surface of the gold . This is the reason that the surface turns blackish. This also causes a minor degradation of gold. The surface coating is damaged with this and the metal loses its sheen,” said Kamaljit Singh, professor of chemistry at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) .
ISBT, Bhagtanwala dumpsite in holy shrine’s vicinity
As per PPCB’s action plan for Clean Air Amritsar-2019, road dust contributes to air pollution by 47 percent, while vehicular emission is 7 percent. Since road dust is also caused by the movement of vehicles, traffic is the main source of pollution in the city. And the Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) is in the heart of the city and in the vicinity of the Golden Temple.
The then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal gave a nod to the shifting of the ISBT to Vallah in 2016 to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the city, but nothing has been done in this regard.
Besides, the largest garbage dumping site at Bhagtanwala also falls in the vicinity of the shrine and is spread over 25 acres. This emits dangerous gases, including methane, but is not being relocated despite all successive governments having promised to do so several times.
Moreover, sewerage also plays a role in causing pollution. The sewerage system is about to collapse as plenty of hotels and guest houses have opened around the shrine.
In 2013, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, cited wood burning in the free kitchen, wood/coal-based tandoors in restaurants within the walled city, re-suspension of dust due to traffic movement and diesel generators in the vicinity as the main sources of air pollution leading to loss of sheen of the dome of the Golden Temple. Moreover, there is no control over the industrial units which also play a key role in causing pollution.
Cleaning of gold plating by UK jatha
Sikh organisations, including the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Gurdwara Soho Road, Birmingham, UK, undertook the task of coating the shrine with fresh gold plating. The work started in February 1995 and was completed in April 1999.
When asked about the implementation of the action plan, Harpal Singh, engineer deputed by the PPCB in Amritsar, said, “As per the directions, the plan needs to be revised with some amendments and addition of micro-action plan. After that, the responsibility of departments concerned will be fixed to implement this plan in order to contain pollution”.