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Talking about pollution

AIR POLLUTION AND CONTROL· K V S G Murali Krishna· Kaushal and Co, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh· Rs 500, 345pp

By Zulfia Nafees
Published: Friday 31 December 1999

-- there is no doubt that air pollution will be of even greater significance in the next millennium. From the first century, when Roman philosopher Seneca complained about air pollution, to recent times, the problem has grown to assume grave dimensions. It is in the light of this that a book on the subject, like the one by Murali Krishna, gains importance.

The author begins with a quote by Shakespeare followed by a definition of environment and a complete glossary of the terms used. The progress thereafter is episodic, detailed and well-researched, covering every aspect from indoor, noise and vehicular pollution to ozone depletion, acid rain and climate change. Numerous diagrams, charts and tables have been added to assist the reader.

The author points out that as man ascends the ladder of civilisation, his needs grow in arithmetial progression and the corresponding pollution grows in geometrial progression.Now the impact of air pollution on the biosphere and the quality of life has begun to emerge. The book draws the reader's attention to the global threat of the "greenhouse effect". The fact that the mean ambient air temperature is expected to increase at an alarming rate of about 0.5-1 c per decade is highlighted as a major cause of concern.

The chapter on particulate control technology is very relevant. Every day, about half-a-million tonnes of particulate matter is released into the atmosphere through anthropogenic sources. The health risks of this on human beings and other life forms cannot be overlooked. In the long run, it could also affect the global temperature balance by disturbing the evaporation-condensation cycle. Three broad approaches (with the advantages and disadvantages) are discussed to control particulate emissions control at source, dilution in the atmosphere (which can be accomplished by the use of tall stacks) and pollution check by using control equipment.

An interesting chapter is on odour pollution, a field of study ignored by most writers. Until now, very little attention was given to the control of odorous air contaminants. Therefore, very little research has been done on osmics or the science of smell. But Murali Krishna's book contains an enriching account on this subject too, documenting odour pollution sources, measurement and control technologies.

Perhaps what makes the book complete is the equal emphasis that has been given to pollution control methods. The problems are not broached only to be discarded after a cynical discussion, but instead viable and practical control methods are explained in detail. No subject is taken up without discussing the control measures.

To control the "greenhouse effect", the author recommends, among other measures, adoption of alternate sources of energy like tidal, wind and solar power; reducing carbon dioxide emissions through promotion of carbon sinks and a world ban on the use of chloroflorocarbons ( cfc s).

Air Pollution is indeed a thorough piece of work that stands out for its contribution to the study of air pollution and control measures. It is a must read for not only those who are interested in the field of environmental studies, but for anyone who considers himself/herself a conscientious and responsible citizen of Earth.

Though at times the narration lapses into techno-scientific territories, by and large, the book is easy reading for a layperson. Perhaps, what prevents the book from ending up as a science tome is the simple and lucid language, trivia on environment and some interesting information like the effects of air pollution on art treasures.

The message of the book is that each one of us can make a difference if we wish. "If each man contributes his mite by planting a tree or by reducing the emissions from his own vehicle or by educating another person on how to fight air pollution, we will go a long way to leave a cleaner world for our future generation," he says.

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