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South Asian Nitrogen Hub

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    31st Jan, 2019

South Asian Nitrogen Hub, a partnership led by the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and comprising around 50 organisations from across the UK and South Asia, will be established with funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under its Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Context

  • South Asian Nitrogen Hub, a partnership led by the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and comprising around 50 organisations from across the UK and South Asia, will be established with funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under its Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
  • With this UK announced its commitment to fund a major international research programme to tackle the challenge that nitrogen pollution poses for the environment, food security, human health and the economy in South Asia.

About

More on news

  • The Hub is one of 12 GCRF hubs being announced today by UKRI to address intractable challenges in sustainable development.
  • The interdisciplinary hubs will work across 85 countries with governments, international agencies, partners and NGOs on the ground in developing countries and around the globe, to develop creative and sustainable solutions that help make the world safer, healthier and more prosperous.
  • The Hub will be awarded £19.6 million over the next five years, comprising £17.1 million from URKI and £2.5m from UK and international partners, including the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).
  • The UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub will study the impacts of the different forms of pollution to form a coherent picture of the nitrogen cycle.
  • In particular, it will look at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.
  • The Hub's recommendations will support cleaner and more profitable farming, as well as industrial recycling of nitrogen, fostering development of a cleaner circular economy for nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen pollution presents significant barriers to achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on: Zero Hunger, Climate Action, Good Health & Well-being, Clean Water & Sanitation, Affordable & Clean Energy, Life Below Water, Life on Land, No Poverty, Responsible Consumption & Production, and Decent Work & Economic Growth.

What causes Nitrogen Pollution?

  • Nitrogen pollution is caused, for example, by emissions from chemical fertilizers, livestock manure, and burning fossil fuels. Previous efforts have addressed only specific aspects of the problem, while the Hub will bring these together in a more coherent approach.

Impact of Nitrogen pollution

  • Nitrogen pollution comes in many forms, with multiple impacts - for humans, animals and plant life. Gases such as ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) contribute to poor air quality and can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions, leading to millions of premature deaths across the world
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a greenhouse gas that depletes the ozone layer. Nitrate from chemical fertilizers, manure and industry pollutes rivers and seas, posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.
  • Nitrogen pollution presents significant barriers to achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on: Zero Hunger, Climate Action, Good Health & Well-being, Clean Water & Sanitation, Affordable & Clean Energy, Life Below Water, Life on Land, No Poverty, Responsible Consumption & Production, and Decent Work & Economic Growth.

    Facts about nitrogen in South Asia

    • South Asia, home to a quarter of the world's population, is critical to the global nitrogen cycle. By 2050, its population of 1.8 billion is expected to rise by 20 per cent, while its use of fertilizers could double.
    • Around 12 million tonnes of nitrogen are used in fertilizers across South Asia to support food production, but the efficiency is low, with around 80% wasted which contributes to multiple forms of nitrogen pollution.
    • About 10 billion USD worth of nitrogen is lost as pollution in South Asia. In India alone, the total societal cost of nitrogen pollution on human health, ecosystems and climate is estimated at about 75 billion USD annually.
    • Atmospheric nitrogen pollution stimulates growth of certain plants at the expense of more sensitive species with a high conservation value.
    • There is a significant risk to global biodiversity hotspots such as the Himalayan foothills, especially as the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) has the highest ammonia (NH3) concentrations in the world, arising mainly from livestock excreta and urea fertilizer used in agriculture.
    • Government subsidies of the fertilizer industry in South Asia are around 10 billion US dollars a year (including 7 billion USD in India).
    • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the country's farmers to cut urea fertilizer consumption by half by 2022.

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