Despite the power of holistic science to open up issues to interdisciplinary analysis, and despite the impression perhaps created in the book thus far that the role of the engineer should now be minimised in river management (see also Chapter 9), it is likely that technocentric solutions will remain influential, if not dominant, in a world of teeming population and widespread famine and disease.
We therefore now return to the technical aspects of the river basin system, having seen from Chapters 4 and 5 the dire consequences of the unsympathetic application of present technologies. Improving ‘the sympathy’ is one part of the research agenda; we also need to improve the technology of river basin management itself in order to stress the need for attention to the larger-scale and longer-term environmental elements, which has proved inadequate in both developed and developing worlds. Inevitably such improvements are brought about by ‘normal science’—the conventional, experimental route championed by Francis Bacon and orientated to ‘the relief of man’s estate’; also inevitable for the foreseeable future is that research results will be applied by engineers—agricultural, civil and environmental. Nevertheless, at each stage of this chapter the ‘people’ issues are never far from the technical ones.
We examine in this chapter the technical problems facing management; it has been necessary to be very selective—omitting, for example, coastal impacts of river basin development. We have included restoration of rivers and wetlands to emphasise the overall ecosystem approach and as a warning that those developed nations which have damaged the spontaneous regulators of their river basins are now making large investments in reinstating them.
The first area of technical facilitation required by sustainable development of a basin’s resources is that of controlling soil loss by erosion and salinisation. It is the crudest paradox that in order to develop plenty we tend to squander sufficient and, while erosion is a natural process, we must come to understand it well enough to work in balance with it. Rainfed agriculture