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Dig and forget

Minerals and Ecology S P Banerjee Publisher: Oxford & 1BH Publishing Co Pvt Ltd Price: Not stated

By Uma Shankar
Published: Monday 31 October 1994

-- (Credit: Pradip Saha / cse)A NATION'S track record in its race for development leans heavily on its natural resources. Ferreting out and exploiting these resources cause severe environmental wrenching. Invariably, mineral wealth, particularly in India, is found in and around forest areas harbouring tribal populations, flora and fauna and microhabitat diversity. The "environment vs development" dilemma is unfortunately umbilically linked to the voracious mining industry. Yet little has been done to cut the cord.

In this book, S P Banerjee has compiled 36 papers presented in the second national seminar on Minerals & Ecology in January 1994. While dealing with a wide range of topics, including air, water, soil and noise pollution, the book foregrounds the experience of putting mined ecosystems back on their feet since 1982, when the "Dhanbad Declaration on Environmental Management in Mining Industry" came into being.

The book touches upon the application of sophisticated techniques in tackling environmental problems in mined ecosystems. Remote-sensing technology along with ground truthing has proved its mettle in mapping the distribution of degraded areas in the mining environment. The deterioration in groundwater quality consequent to mining is a major concern. In a scenario where petrophysical characteristics (bedrock properties and the nature of overlying sediments) decide the movement of contaminants from waste dumps and tailing Pat the groundwater, geophysical nm can assist in identifying areas 0f and-low permeability and the SON natural contamination.

Despite fragmentary inforrTua natural vegetation re-establishawi biomass accumulation in re,, mined ecosystems, the book d'ekin techniques of applying ecologicAd ciples in restoring coal, phosphaw limestone, copper and manganese quar Rise. Some contributors present new bin bits and pieces;'others merely fit JWk-as into new clothes.

Aimother serious fallout of mining she downswing in soil quality. mocast and surface mining are far we damaging than rathole and underMled mining. But much of the land pulation can be taken care of by p6a,ying "sequential topsoil replaceat'. Many coal quarries in Europe w adopted backfilling of pits as a p-effective method for the speedy Wation of mined ecosystems. Surprisingly, the papers in this volume are quite blank on this issue, pointing to an absence of research in this directioiA, Surely, downstream research should burrow into the success potential of the sequential topsoil replacement technique, and work out the economics and feasibility of employing it in Indian conditions.

Sadly, the book's contents are jarringly at odds with the style of presentation. Typographical errors abound, and seem to have originated from the desks of the concerned authors since the papers are direct photographic reproductions. Going through the book is quite an uncomfortable experience because the illustrations (figures and tables) for most of the chapters are presented as appendices. The book would have had greater value with a subject index. Nevertheless, this compilation is a topical one and should fuel attempts being made towards ecoffiendly mining.

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