Researchers tackle nitrogen pollution in Asia

Published: 13 February 2019

Climate change researchers from Scotland’s Rural College are to help tackle nitrogen pollution in South Asia as part of a £20 million project.

A key nutrient for agricultural production and a cornerstone of food security, nitrogen is also connected to air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change and ozone depletion. It also poses health risks and as well as challenges to livelihoods and the economy.

With the greater use of nitrogen came a decline in the efficiency of its use, leading to an increased release of polluting nitrogen compounds to ecosystems such as the Himalayan forests and the coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.

Nitrogen use and pollution is a critically important challenge globally, and particularly in South Asia, which has a population of 1.7 billion people (growing 1.7 per cent annually) and where agricultural production is expected to use the most nitrogen in the world by 2050.

SRUC is part of the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) – a partnership of leading South Asian and UK institutions which has been awarded £20m over the next five years to tackle the huge nitrogen pollution challenge in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Researchers will share their expertise in interdisciplinary, impact-driven science, agronomy and socio-economics to help tackle the problem.

“More than a quarter of the world’s population live in South Asia, but food security remains a significant challenge to large parts of the region. In this exciting new research programme SRUC staff will share their knowledge and experience to help communities across South Asia to build a more sustainable future. There will be a particular focus on more efficient use of nitrogen inputs to support agricultural production while avoiding the environmental damage that is so often associated with its use.”

Bob Rees, Head of SRUC’s Carbon Management Centre

SANH was funded as one of the 12 interdisciplinary global research hubs supported by UK Research and Innovation through the Global Challenges Research Fund.

It is a partnership of more than 40 institutions from nine countries, including the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP). 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.

 

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