Air Pollution

Nitrogen Pollution


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SANH

Mains level: Potential threats of Nitrogen Pollution from various sources


  • 18 research institutions in India are among a group of 50 institutions called the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) — in the UK and South Asia to assess and study the quantum and impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.

Nitrogen Pollution

  1. While nitrogen is the dominant gas in the atmosphere, it is inert and doesn’t react.
  2. However, when it is released as part of compounds from agriculture, sewage and biological waste, nitrogen is considered reactive.
  3. It may be polluting and even exert a potent greenhouse gas effect.
  4. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide but isn’t as prevalent in the atmosphere.
  5. 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.
  6. Nitrogen pollution is caused, for example, by emissions from chemical fertilisers, livestock manure and burning fossil fuels.
  7. 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.
  8. Nitrate from chemical fertilisers, manure and industry pollutes the rivers and seas, posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.

Nitrogen emission in India

  1. NOx emissions grew at 52% from 1991 to 2001 and 69% from 2001 to 2011 in India.
  2. Agriculture is the largest contributor to nitrogen emissions.
  3. Non-agricultural emissions of nitrogen oxides and nitrous oxide were growing rapidly, with sewage and fossil-fuel burning — for power, transport and industry — leading the trend.

About South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH)

  1. The South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) is a major international research programme to tackle the challenge that nitrogen pollution poses in South Asia.
  2. The SANH will be established with funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under its Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
  3. 18 Indian research institutions are part of a group of 50 which have received £20 million funding from the United Kingdom Government.
  4. The SANH will study the impact of the different forms of pollution to form a coherent picture of the nitrogen cycle.
  5. In particular, it will look at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.
  6. Its 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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