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UK to Support Nitrogen Research in India

  • 25 Jan 2019
  • 4 min read

The United Kingdom will fund the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH), a group of 50 institutions to assess and study the quantum and impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.

  • Eighteen research institutions in India are the part of SANH which 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.
  • This is a five-year programme established with funds from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under its Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Global Challenges Research Fund

  • The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.
  • GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Nitrogen Pollution

  • Nitrogen constitutes 78% of Earth's air. In the form of gas it is colourless, odourless and generally considered as inert gas. In aqueous form also it is colourless and odourless.
    • Nitrogen makes plants grow and is an essential component for life.
  • Nitrogen is potent greenhouse gas. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent green house gas than carbon dioxide.
  • Nitrogen pollution is caused by emission of excess of Nitrogen from the use of chemical fertilisers, livestock manure and burning fossil fuels.
  • 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.
  • Nitrate from chemical fertilisers, manure and industry pollutes the rivers and seas, posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.
  • Other than air pollution, nitrogen is also linked to the loss of biodiversity, the pollution of rivers and seas, ozone depletion, health, economy, and livelihoods.

Need of the Study

  • According to a study, nitrogen emissions in India grew at 52% from 1991 to 2001 and 69% from 2001 to 2011.

  • The planetary boundary of N (nitrogen) is set at 44 Tg (Tera-grams) per year globally and current application of N, primarily through fertiliser usage, is about 150 Tg N per year.
    • Planetary boundary is the limits of the earth within which humans can thrive.
  • Specially in case of South Asia, high doses of fertiliser input of nitrogen to agriculture combined with low nitrogen-use efficiency means that research on nitrogen pollution must be a priority. This is emphasised by the scale of nitrogen subsidies across South Asia at around $10 billion per year.
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