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Could the Taj Mahal Collapse in 2 Years?

  • Taj Mahal

    Indian Muslims offer prayers at a Mosque at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. (AP Photo)

  • Taj Mahal

    The Taj Mahal seen from the banks of river Yamuna (David Castor)

An Indian archaeologist denied Friday claims that the Taj Mahal could collapse in as little as two years.

Britain's Daily Mail reported Wednesday that the iconic structure -- which attracts four million tourists a year -- could "cave in between two and five years," citing Agra lawmaker Ramshankar Katheria.

The 358-year-old marble mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is also regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The newspaper reported that the foundations have become brittle and are disintegrating. Cracks appeared last year in parts of the white marble tomb, and the four minarets which surround the monument are showing signs of tilting.

However, in an interview with AFP on Friday, chief archaeologist at The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) -- which began a major facelift for the Taj Mahal in 2007 -- dismissed the dire predictions.

"We have been having regular tests conducted and agencies including Survey of India have never pointed out such threats to the survival of the Taj Mahal," the ASI's chief archaeologist in Agra, I.D. Dwivedi, said.

Katheria, speaking to AFP, denied forecasting the collapse of the structure, but said he had conveyed his fears for the future of the Taj Mahal to Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and president Pratibha Patil.

"I am demanding a high-level inquiry to analyze the severe threat posed to the wooden structures in the foundation of the Taj," the lawmaker said.