Review Survey of the Environment `97 (published by The Hindu Chennai, 1997)

The Hindu has been bringing out, over the years, an annual publication dedicated to the current environmental issues in India, and the present volume (Survey of the Environment, 97) is an welcome addition to that series. This time, apart from focussing on the environmental concerns in the country, a section very appropriately titled Five Years After Rio is devoted to discuss the present status of some of the major commitments made at the Earth Summit in 1992.

The book has been divided into five major sections. The opening section examines the post- Rio position of some important decisions taken five years back. Unfortunately, there is not much on the credit side. Apart from some positive gains from the Biodiversity Convention, such as identification of Biodiversity inventories and strategies by a few countries there has not been any worthwhile headway in the implementation of the recommendations of Agenda 21 or Climate Change Convention, which need national commitment on the one hand and international cooperation on the other. As a matter of fact environmental negotiations have slowly turned into business transactions between unwilling partners ...... and this multigovermentalisation of the environmental agenda has been disastrous...... In this respect, our own (Indian) position itself leaves much to be work out strategies for sustainable development.

The link between environmental and health, the theme of the second section, need handy to be emphasized. Environmental degradation leads to the spread of disease. The plague episode in Surat and the dengue menace in Delhi are clear examples of this. Therefore, what needs to be emphasized is the need of measures. The deleterious effects of urbanization, air and water pollution on human health has now becomes too obvious to ignore. Thus a proper health planning strategy in our country is imperative. In fact, development has, in many cases contributed to the resurgence of certain vector-borne diseases and deaths, particularly in our metros shows an even increasing trend. The costs in terms of treatment, man hours lost, livilhoods forsaken etc. are staggering.

One of the most informative sections of the book is the Survey of the Urban Health, wherein fourteen cities in the country have been surveyed to assess their disease patterns and the causes underlying them. The story is all too familiar. Indiscriminate urbanization and unplanned industrial growth have brought miseries to these cities. Apart from the water borne diseases associated with increasing air pollution. The rate of increase of population - children, for example - is truly alarming. Most of the cites have totally inadequate facilities for sewage and garbage disposal and that adds on to the health problems. Good health is an important parameter of quality of life. The present Survey shows, that quality has certainly declined in our cities.

There is a perpetual tussle between Development and environment , although there should be a harmony between the if a holistic view of a particular situation is taken. In the section entitled Conflicts and Controversies four such environmental projects have been discussed, viz; Project Tiger, Coastal Habitats, Nagarhole Park and Dahanu. While denial of development is nobody s case, the care and caution with which such issues of eminence environmental consequence have to be pursued, are missing. Even the measures taken by the government in the form of notifications, regulations, risk or impact assessments one at times, half-hearten formalities, with a very few notable exceptions where some result oriented action has taken. This has led in many cases, to the people or the community affected initiating some action towards small success stories in preventing industrial pollution in a village area in Rajasthan or Haryana and so on. The last section of the book People Initiatives gives instances of such activities towards environmental restoration.

The contributors to this volume are environmentalists and activists well known in their areas of work. The book has been put together well and is moderately priced at RS.40/-.It provides a good deals of information about the current environmental concerns in India and would be very useful for students and researchers.

Porf. D.K. Banerjee
School of Environmental Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi -110 067


Renewable Energy Technology

The book Renewable Energy Technology presents a lucid account of renewable energy technology and has subject matter of contemporary interest. This may be a good guide for those wanting to be introduced into the area through first principles approach. The book is of particular value for scientists working for developing such sources in India, such information are very exhaustively compiled. The data for Tamil Nadu and for all India level are in abundance:

The first two chapters deals with the source of energy in ocean, physical principles underlying its exploitation and the by-products of energy production. The author emphasize the need for adoptation of OTEC. Marine, impact of OTEC are described for India and mentions conceptual studies for Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Marakanam Complex, Kulasekara Pattinam and OTEC plants for Kavartti(Lakshadweep Islands).

An assessment of demand and supply particularly in regard to Tamil Nadu suggest that the gap between the two is significant and authors emphasize that the same can be bridged using renewable sources of energy. This source of energy is eco-friendly (OTEC power and desalinated water plants in Hawaii are given as an illustration).

The role and importance of energy available for social and economic development is emphasized viz. the sustainability. A comparission of energy use with developed countries like United States indicate that there is a vast disparity between the pattern of energy consumption between India and USA.

The generation of electricity using OTEC is cost effective according to the authors as compared to conventional production of electricity.

Authors describe development of other renewable sources of energy used e.g. solar power plant and wind power.The use of solar energy in a number of ways are described e.g. Solar architecture, Solar cookers, water heating systems, solar Thermal power generation, solar cooling, solar drying, solar ponds etc. to name a few. The need to increase its use is also recommended. The source of such energy may particularly be tapped in Rajasthan.

Similarly wind power potential may specially be exploited for Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. where the installed capacity is nuch below the estimated potential.

Authors point out that much needs to be done for rural area in this country, where a large number of villages are deprived of electrification. Biomass utilization in rural area is another possibility that the authors have pointed out . Already existing plants can be sufficiently augmented to meet a part of the increasing demands. The discription throughout is qualitative in presentation and somewhat meets the need of environmental scientists.

The instrumentation described is only sketchy and does not provide any information about the instrumental design, its efficiency, leucuna in the existing system and possibility of improvement.

The book is strongly recommended for enlightened readers.

Prof. Jitendar Bihari
School of Environmental Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi - 110 067


Applied Geography and Development

Applied Geography and Development, vol.47, is a bi-annual collection of recent German contributions to keep geographers and administrative officers and relevant institutions in other countries informed on German studies in the field of geographical research. This is published by the Institute for Scientific Co-operation , Tublingen, Federal Republic of Germany. The volume under review is edited by a team headed by Dr. J.M.Hohnholz.

There are four articles related to land use and land cover characteristics, one each on environment and population migration in Indonesia, small scale industrial development in Darfur region in Sudan and sustainable water use in the Republic of Yemen.

Friedhelm Goeltenboth, in his article Environmental Destruction and Overpopulation as Triggers of Migration - The example of Indonesia, describes the growth and distribution of population and the extent of water pollution and soil contamination.In order to ease the pressure of population on land government encourages resettlement in other less populated islands. This might result in deforestation of the last remaining original rainforest area by 2023. Apart from deforestation, the aborginals way of self sufficient life is changed into settled consumer oriented settlers based on low labour wages. He advocates discouragement to this trend.

Fouad N. Ibrahim, based on interviews and questionnaires conducted in the year 1986, studies the small scale industry in Darfur (Sudan) and possibilities for its development. By analysing the development of industries viz. leather work, woodwork, tailoring and cottage industries and the problems faced by them, Ibrahim recommends training, upgradation of techniques, diversifying products to meet the market, particularly the urban markets and widening scope of functions of existing womens centres related to cottage industry.

The development of water resources in a sustainable manner in the Republic of Yemen, taking Wadi Markhah as an example , is discussed by Stefan Kohler. He compares the ancient, traditional modern ground water use against sustainability criteria in economic, social and political sectors. He concludes while overusing groundwater resources may bring short term economic development, it is not viable in the long run.

Werner Fricke and Gilber Malchau discuss the new aspects of the increased carrying capacity of the densely populated hinterland of Uyo in southeastern Nigeria. According to them capital is flowing into the region from urban centres as a result of trickle down effect. Most of the people are active in agricultural sector and half of them here additional income from non- agricultural occupation. Palm oil plays major role in the economy in the study area. The migrants have invested in the construction of houses in own home villages. House construction, combined with property rights and the retention of political influence over migrants regions of origin constitute many special form of non-agricultural carrying capacity in the study area.

Ecological problems, such as demands for space occupations, water supply and pollution and refuse in large Latin American cities are discussed by Rainer Wehrhahn, the author investigate the urbanisation process in Latin America with examples from Sao Paulo in particular. Expansion of cites caused a lack of appropriate urban open spaces for the size of population at an acceptable distance. Uncontrolled growth lead to increasing pollution of air and water. Air pollution in 6cities is tabulated. While motor vehicles are responsible for CFC emissions, industries throw up lot of dust. In areas where water has been diminished, there is a danger of increasing dust storms. Sewerage refuse handling is under severe strain. In the lights of environmental degradation Rainer Wehrhan advocates the development and rigorous implementation of ecologically oriented urban development.

Anthropologenic changes in the vegetation cover in Cote de Ivoire over the last 100 years are described in detail by Marhin Wonlfarth-Bottermann.Colonial induced development in Co te de Ivoire in the form of externally oriented agricultural production and population growth due to immigration caused colossal reduction, to the extent of 90 %, in the rain forest area in the Cote de Ivoire in the last 100 years. Based on painstaking collection of information and data from variety of sources. Martin has developed a model for landuse changes and lucidly describes the temporal and spatial advance of the vegetation transformation in the rainforest zone during different phases viz.: pacification (1908-20), colonial exploitation (1920-1929), growth of cities, intensification of agriculture (1929-1939), forced anarchy (1929-55), coffee- cocoa boom (1929-1955), the growth and diversification of agriculture (1955-1965), recent development (1965-75), and the present (1975). After careful analysis of the trend in decrease in rainforest area the author advocates regulatory intervention in order to maintains basic geo- ecological functions of the vegetation.

A comparative study of the traditional land use systems and soil evaluation under Baatonom, agriculturists and Fulani, pastoralists in the mountain area of North Benin has been made by Jan Swoboda and Hans-Jurgen Strum. The authors advocate that indigenous knowledge concerning land management should form the basis for the development of sustainable land use systems. Baatonians generally possess fertile land while Fulanis cultivate the marginal lands. Baatonians evaluate the land and soil keeping in view the method of cultivation, Fulanis take into account the availability of labour also in evaluating the land and they made finer distinction in land categories. The traditional method of cultivation is viewed against the background of bringing hitherto unutilised land under plough. These lands are to be cultivated keeping in view the technical innovations and other external inputs for raising commercial crops.

Thus the collection of essays give a glimpse of the German studies on issues related to sustainable development in developing countries. Attempt at theorising from empirical studies is a welcome which need to be emulated in other geographical studies whereas at present empiricism dominates.

Prof. S. Sivasami
Director, CSRD
School of Social Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi - 110 067


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