Scientists sound caution on nitrogen pollution at INI conference

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 01, 2021

Liquid nitrogen   -  Wikipedia

Exceeding earth’s tolerance limit restricts the safe margin for other environmental issues


Humanity’s failure to stop nitrogen pollution could limit the safe operating margin for many other issues facing our planet earth, said scientists.

“Human activities have pushed climate change, biodiversity loss, shifts in nutrient cycles (nitrogen and phosphorus) and land use beyond the tolerance limits of planet earth. The difficulty is that they also limit the safe margin available for other environmental issues facing the earth, such as fresh water use, ocean acidification, land use and stratospheric ozone depletion,” said Johan Rockstrom, former director of the Stockholm resilience centre at the Stockholm University, Sweden.

Rockstrom said this while delivering the keynote address at the 8th triennial Conference of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) that began on Monday. The conference, organised virtually, was attended by 950 participants from all continents.

Scientists find way to improve nitrogen use efficiency in paddy

Breakthru with regard to rice

“INI conferences always brought together the latest science to call for governmental action and evidence-based policies. Following the UN resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, our task is to scientifically support its mitigation efforts,” said Nandula Raghuram, Chair of the INI, in his inaugural address.

“Fertilisers are a predominant source of nitrous oxide and ammonia pollution. We narrowed down the minimum number of physical attributes and gene targets for nitrogen use efficiency in rice for the first time,” said Raghuram, also a professor of biotechnology at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi.

Over half of India lives with hazardous levels of air pollution

Speaking on nitrogen in Europe at the inaugural session, Virginijus Sinkevičius said that the European Commission has a policy framework in place that imposes limits to nitrogen pollution of air and water. The German environment minister Svenja Schulze highlighted the country’s nitrogen pollution reduction targets and enabling policies, apart from her ministry’s promotion of vegetarianism.

“Germany is the only country with such national targets; its policies are worth emulating,” said David Kanter, Vice-Chair of INI and assistant professor of environment at New York University.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Environment Programme, Laeticia Cavalho said “India championed the UN nitrogen resolution and Sri Lanka championed the Columbo declaration, which called for a global ambition to halve the nitrogen waste. These are developments of huge importance in meeting the nitrogen challenge”.



Sustainable fertiliser use

Representing the view of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Maria Helena Semedo said: “Reactive nitrogen inputs are extremely important for crop production and global food security, but there are huge imbalances in their access and use. The 41st session of FAO endorsed a code of conduct for sustainable use of fertilisers”.

Ana Engleryd, representing the Long range trans boundary air pollution under the UN Economic Commission for Europe, said: “Good science is necessary for good policy making and INI’s nitrogen assessments have been playing that very important role”.

Emphasising the role of scientific and policy innovations for transformative approaches to meet the nitrogen challenge, Engleryd said: “Stone age did not end because we lacked stones”.

Published on June 01, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.