Environment management treated cursorily

  • 29/09/1992

This volume collates 29 papers on environmental management, air, water and wastewater management, ecology and environmental pollution control and noise.

The book reflects the extent of information starvation in India: most of the papers are quite dated. Some are so basic they would find a place in undergraduate tutorial notes. The attempt by the editors "to provide exhaustive information of environmental management and planning" has had little success. Reading the book, one wonders what the editors had pegged as the level of knowledge of the targeted reader.

It is quite apparent that everyone involved with producing the book failed to do their homework properly. For example, in the article on "Flaring Practices," the author mixes up the British and metric systems, giving the quantity of sulphur dioxide in pounds and its concentration in microgrammes. In one of the papers (pp 228), calcium and magnesium are refered to as organic matter -- a howler that challenges the basic foundations of chemistry. The editors also unhesitatingly create their own symbols, referring, for example, to Calcium as CA instead of Ca.

It is surprising that for a book published in 1992, most of the references are from the 1970s, almost as if research on the petroleum industry and environment ended in that decade. The papers on ecology are equally disastrous and are only remotely connected with the petroleum industry. For instance, one fails to see the relation that one paper attempts to show between the sulphur content of leaves from plants in Lajpat Nagar, a Delhi suburb, and the petroleum industry.

There are, however, two good papers: one by Krishna Mudan on risk assessment and the other by R R Singh on the impact of drilling.

In reviewing a book like this, it may be unfair to the editors to make an absolute judgement of its value. The basic problem in compiling such a technical volume is choosing contributors. In the absence of suitable technical expertise in many environmental disciplines, it is probably not possible to produce a quality volume with contributions from Indian authors alone. While I don't think anyone else but these editors could have done a better job, I still would not buy the book, and would prefer one wth fewer pages and more useful papers.

S. Mukherjee is a writer of popular science.