UK to support nitrogen research in India

South Asian Nitrogen Hub to be led by UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

By Sunderarajan Padmanabhan
Published: Thursday 24 January 2019
Some 50 per cent of nitrogen is lost to the environment in water run-off from fields and gas emissions from soil microbe metabolism. Photo: USDA / Flicker

Nitrogen pollution is an emerging environmental problem linked with air pollution, biodiversity loss, pollution of rivers and seas and ozone depletion. The British government has announced a research project to study nitrogen pollution in India and South Asia.

Nitrogen pollution is caused, among other things, by emissions from chemical fertilisers, livestock manure, and burning of fossil fuels. Gases such as ammonia and nitrogen dioxide contribute to poor air quality and can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions, while nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that depletes the ozone layer. Nitrate from chemical fertilisers, manure and industry pollutes rivers and seas, posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.  

The new partnership programme, South Asian Nitrogen Hub, will be led by the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and will include 50 organisations from UK and South Asia. Indian institutions to be involved include

  • National Institute of Oceanography
  • Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
  • Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Aligarh Muslim University
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • TERI University

The five-year programme is being established with funds from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and is worth 19.6 million pounds (about Rs 182 crore). It will focus on impacts of different forms of nitrogen pollution, particularly looking at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries in South Asia. It is expected to boost cleaner and more profitable farming, as well as industrial recycling of nitrogen.  

“India is the only country in South Asia that has completed its nitrogen assessment over a year ago and is already co-leading the South Asian nitrogen assessment for the UN Environment,” N Raghuram, who chairs the International Nitrogen Initiative, said.

“Better nitrogen management offers a triple win — for the economy, health and environment. Joining up across the nitrogen cycle will catalyse change for a cleaner, healthier and more climate-resilient world,” said Mark Sutton, who will lead the new project. (India Science Wire)

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