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The Tribune, January 21, 2007

The world around us- “Fourth Estate: Strengthening Environmental Reporting in South Asia”: Review of Book by Jayanti Rao- The Tribune.

The world around us

Fourth Estate: Strengthening Environmental Reporting in South Asia

A Handbook on Air, Water and Land Pollution

Jayanti Roy

The other day at a specialized science seminar, one of the scientists made a remark ridiculing journalists/reporters about misreporting the technicality involved in his scientific presentation. It is quite obvious that reporters cannot be expert in each and every field that they report. Nonetheless, a minimum level of understanding is expected of them despite the pressure of deadlines and stressful conditions. This handbook is an effort to bring their tasks a certain degree of professionalism in the reporting of environmental issues. Out of the vast gamut of the discipline only aspects of air, water and land pollution has been covered in this book.

This choice is quite relevant as most of the environmental reporting is regarding these issues only. However, information on topics such as biodiversity, endangered species of plant and animals, wildlife etc is also important and could have been included.

The book tries to explain scientific terms measurement and units and international agreements in a simple and comprehensible way. Special attention is given to information regarding the situation in South –Asian Countries.

In spite of the tightly packed information , the book is not heavy as it is peppered with suggested readings, story ideas, and website addresses in coloured boxes, Interesting facts, news, pictures, ideograms, tables and graphs dot almost all the pages. At times , through , too much of such hypertext looks like a cutting pasting jobs as many of the pictures are there for adornment and do not add to clarify the concept.

Today, unlimited information is easily accessible on the Net. Therefore having any such effort in print needs to be highly organized, to the point and free of mistakes specially if it is meant for reporters who are hard pressed for time.

The book could have done well with an exhaustive index so that technical terms could be directly referred to without the layperson having to wade through all the pages. The table of contents only tabulates the broader terms.

With the working group consisting of five technical experts and 15 media and NGO persons , one expects the book to be free of mistakes but grammatical mistakes and unnecessary use of capital letters mar the seriousness and professionalism of the of the project.

However, the objective to address and demystify scientific and technical jargon of the environment, as claimed in the foreword, is achieved to a fair extent.

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