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River Basin Planning is divided into three major parts and an appendix. Part 1, Theory of River Basin Planning, is led by an introductory chapter from the editors emphasizing the major human component in the complex sociotechnical attributes of river basin development. They present a forceful argument for a truly interdisciplinary approach to river basin planning. (The appendix subsequently suggests curriculum development for courses in river basin planning.)

Part 2, River Basin Planning: Environmental Issues, is supported by two chapters: one with a focus on soil conservation, the other on ecosystem protection. The soil conservation chapter by I. Douglas illustrates that slow, inadvertent changes may be more damaging in the long run than immediate, direct effects. It postulates that planning for people perforce will require planning for soil conservation as an ongoing activity. The case for environmental protection is somewhat weak because of the singular example chosen for illustration. The Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia, is in a fragile, humid, tropical forest region where any change per se is interpreted as being detrimental.