Architecturally stunning on the outside, but increasingly fragile on the inside.

That is the verdict among campaigners who argue that India’s most famous tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal could collapse within five years unless its rotting foundations are fixed.

Every year, it is estimated that more than four million tourists flock to Agra, north India to visit the 358-year old white marble mausoleum, which stands on the bank of the River Yamuna.

But the river that is essential to its survival is drying up due to pollution and deforestation – and experts say it is making the monument’s foundations brittle.

A campaign group of historians, environmentalists and politicians say time is running out to preserve its foundations and India’s government has been urged to act after cracks and signs of tilting appeared last year.

Professor Ram Nath, a historian who is a leading authority on the Taj, said: “The Taj stands just on the edge of the river Yamuna which has now dried up.

“This was never anticipated by its builders. The river is a constituent of its architectural design and if the river dies, the Taj cannot survive.”

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