Flawed but valued

POLLUTION AND BIONIONITORING Edited by B C Rana-Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Ltd Rs 350

Published: Thursday 30 November 1995

THF use of live clues to monitor changes in the environment is probably the simplest definition of biomonitoring. In the above sense, it is a rather traditional practice. It has, however, proved to be of greater relevance today, especially in the light of critical issues such as the sustainability of our natural environment. The pursuit of such "early warning natural systems" has thus gained tremendous momentum worldwide. This book is the first of its kind in India.

The book is an eye-opener to Indian readers, underscoring the fact that that subject has largely been neglected in India. This is important, since biomonitoring has been recommended for developing countries as a more economical tool than many standard chemical and physical tests that are available for monitoring the health of soil, water and air.

Although the book covers examples ranging from protozoans to fishes, it is somewhat lopsided because of an overemphasis on the problems of monitoring aquatic pollution, almost to the total neglect of problems relating to soil and air. In fact, the most classic examples of biornonitoring have been of using lichens to monitor air pollution.

Actually, who is the true addressee of the book? it is a mixture of introductory, conceptual, methodological and laboratory manual-type of articles. The methodology papers are too specific and would appeal more to the specialists. Even the reviews are not deep enough.

Technically speaking, bioindicators have not been clearly defined in the book. As per the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International (CABLIUK), bioindicators; are "orgam Isms expressing particular symptoms or responses indicative of changes in some environmental influence, usually in a qualitative manner". Experts at the CABi have gone on to distinguish between bioindicators, biomonitors, bioac- cumulators, biontarkers, bioprobes and bioassays. Some of the distinctions made are more conceptual than real - a discussion of these in the book would have helped the general reader considerably. In fact, these terms have been frequently interchangeably used in this book.

Finally, it would have been very interesting if the book had been divided into different sections covering the historical, present and future relevance of biomonitoring, and a review of work relating to soil, water and air pollution. Despite all criticisms, however, which are really meant to help improve future publications of this kind, I feel that this book should be seen in the stacks of all libraries in the country.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :