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What are the Effects of Acid Rain on Taj Mahal?

Last Updated : 03 Sep, 2021
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The combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil in industries, thermal power plants, and oil refineries, as well as petrol and diesel in automobiles, produces acidic gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which contaminate the air. Sulphuric acid is formed when sulphur dioxide interacts with water vapour in the atmosphere, whereas nitric acid is formed when nitrogen oxides react with water vapour in the atmosphere. Generally, clouds of rain are formed by pure water, but the gases in the atmosphere react with the rainwater and form acid rain. Now, let’s discuss what exactly is acid rain, How is being formed and what are its damages to the Taj Mahal.

What is an Acid Rain?

Acid rain is composed of extremely acidic water droplets that form as a result of air pollutants, especially the excessive quantities of sulphur and nitrogen released by automobiles and manufacturing activities. This idea is sometimes referred to as acid rain since it encompasses a wide range of acidic precipitation.

There are two types of acidic deposition: wet and dry. Wet deposition refers to any type of precipitation that takes acids from the atmosphere and deposits them on the earth’s surface. Dry deposition of harmful particles and gases clings to the ground in the absence of precipitation via dust and smoke. Thus, leads to the formation of Acid rain and so defined as:

In its most basic form, acid rain may be defined as the precipitation of acid in the form of rain. Acid Rain occurs when air contaminants such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides combine with rainfall and fall as rain, therefore termed as Acid Rain.

Formation of Acid Rain

Acid rain is caused by Sulphur and Nitrogen particles that combine with the rain’s moist components. Sulphur and nitrogen particles that combine with water can be obtained in two ways: man-made (emissions from industry) or natural (a lightning strike in the atmosphere releases nitrogen ions and volcanic eruptions releases sulphur).

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, who believes Scottish scientist Robert Angus Smith to be the Father of Acid Rain, the term acid rain was coined in 1852 by Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith. Smith came up with the phrase while researching rainwater chemistry in industrial cities in England and Scotland.

The usual clean rain we feel, despite the fact that it is not clean, i.e. water and carbon dioxide combine to create mild carbonic acid, which is not very damaging on its own. The reaction that is taking place is as follows:

CO2 (g) + H2O (l) ⇌ H2CO3 (aq)

Regular rainfall has a pH of approximately 5.7, indicating that it is acidic. The nitrogen and sulphur oxides, as well as dust particles, are carried away by the wind. They settle on the earth’s surface after falling as precipitation. Acid rain is mostly a byproduct of human activities that release nitrogen and sulphur oxides into the atmosphere. e.g. the use of fossil fuels and unethical waste disposal practices.

Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are oxidised before reacting with water to create sulphuric acid and nitric acid, respectively. The acid generation reaction will be clarified by the following reaction:

O2 (g) + 2SO2 (g) + 2H2O (l) → 2H2SO4 (aq)

O2 (g) + 4NO2 (g) + 2H2O (l) → 4HNO3 (aq)

Effects of Acid Rain

  • Acid rain is extremely damaging to crops, plants, and animals. It wipes out the nutrients necessary for plant development and survival. Acid rain has an impact on agriculture because it changes the makeup of the soil.
  • It irritates the lungs of both animals and humans.
  • Acid rain has an impact on the aquatic ecology when it falls and runs into rivers and ponds. Because it changes the chemical makeup of the water to a form that is harmful to the aquatic ecosystem’s ability to thrive and creates water pollution.
  • Water pipes corrode as a result of acid rain. As a result, heavy metals such as iron, lead, and copper seep into drinking water. It deteriorates stone and metal structures and monuments.

Damage to Taj Mahal due to Acid Rain

The Taj Mahal in Agra is a stunning historical structure composed of pure white marble. Experts have warned that air pollution in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal is discolouring and progressively corroding its white marble. This endangers the Taj Mahal’s beauty. 

The Mathura Oil Refinery at Agra, as well as numerous industries in and around Agra, release gaseous pollutants into the air, such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which cause acid rain. Acid rain’s acids react with the marble (calcium carbonate) of the Taj Mahal monument, progressively corroding it. 

Agra has several factories that release sulphur and nitrogen oxides into the environment. People continue to utilise low-quality coal and firewood as residential fuel, exacerbating the situation. Acid rain reacts with marble (calcium carbonate) as follows:

H2SO4 + CaCO3 → CaSO4 + H2O + CO2 

Marble cancer refers to the gradual deterioration (or eating away) of a monument’s marble caused by acid rain. The suspended particulate matter, such as soot particles, released in the smoke from the Mathura Oil Refinery discolours the Taj Mahal’s pristine white marble, making it yellowish.

To combat air pollution, the Supreme Court of India has ordered that all businesses in Agra convert to cleaner fuels such as CNG and LPG. Air pollution affects not just living things (such as humans, other land animals, aquatic creatures such as fish, trees and crop plants, etc.), but also non-living objects (such as soil, sculptures, buildings, and historical monuments).

Preventive Measures

  1. The only preventative measure we can take against acid rain is to reduce nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions.
  2. So far, we’ve seen the specifics of acid rain and its negative impact on animals, plants, and monuments.
  3. As responsible citizens, we should be aware of the detrimental consequences they create, as well as the companies that unethically dispose of nitrogen and sulphur compound pollutants.

Sample Problems 

Problem 1: What is acid rain, and how is it caused?


Acid rain is generated by a chemical process that occurs when chemicals like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the atmosphere. These compounds may ascend extremely far into the sky, where they combine and react with water, oxygen, and other molecules to create acid rain, a highly acidic type of pollution.

Problem 2: What are the effects of acid rain?


Acid rain has the greatest biological impact on coastal areas, such as streams, lakes, and marshes, where fish and other animals can be hazardous. As acidic rainfall travels through the soil and overflows into streams and lakes, it can drain aluminium from soil clay particles.

Problem 3: What will happen if we don’t stop acid rain?


Acid rain is primarily caused by the chemicals sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. It can also have an impact on people because the acid is found in fruits, plants, and animals. In other words, if acid rain does not cease, and we consume such foods, we can become very ill. In general, acid rain has an indirect effect on males.

Problem 4: What are the harmful effects of acid rain?


Acid rain has been found to be harmful to trees, freshwaters, and soils, as well as destroying insects and aquatic life-forms, causing paint to peel, corrosion of steel structures such as bridges, and weathering of stone buildings and sculptures, as well as having an influence on human health.

Problem 5: Discuss any three ways to reduce acid rain?


Alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, should also be considered. Renewable energy sources assist to minimise acid rain since they emit far less emissions. Other electrical sources include nuclear power, hydropower, and geothermal energy. Nuclear and hydropower are the most often used of these.

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