Nitrogen Pollution

• South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) to study nitrogen pollution
Key Facts:

• 18 Institutes from India and 32 other Institutions are part of South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) which has been constituted in the United Kingdom and South Asia to assess impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.

• The SANH 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.

Trends in nitrogen emissions in India

• NOx emissions grew at 52% from 1991 to 2001 and 69% from 2001 to 2011.

• Agriculture remained the largest contributor to nitrogen emissions.

• Non-agricultural emissions of nitrogen oxides and nitrous oxide are growing rapidly, with sewage and fossil-fuel burning for power, transport and industry.

About Nitrogen Gas:

• Nitrogen gas is inert and doesn’t react, colorless, odorless and tasteless.

• However, when it is released as part of compounds from agriculture, sewage and biological waste, nitrogen is considered “reactive”, and it may be polluting.

• Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

• Nitrogen is also linked to the loss of biodiversity, the pollution of rivers and seas, ozone depletion, health, economy, and livelihoods.

Cause of Nitrogen pollution:

• Emissions from 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.

• Nitrate from chemical fertilisers, manure and industry pollutes the rivers and seas posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.

Applications of Nitrogen Gas

• It is used to preserve the freshness of packaged or bulk foods.

• In ordinary incandescent light bulbs as an inexpensive alternative to argon.

• In production of electronic parts such as transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits.

• Filling automotive and aircraft tires due to its inertness and lack of moisture or oxidative qualities, as compared to air.

• As a propellant for draft wine, and as an alternative to or in combination with carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages


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

Prelims level: SANH

Mains level: Potential threats of Nitrogen Pollution from various sources

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