SANH is comprised of four research programmes which cover all different aspects of the nitrogen challenge in South Asia from policy, agricultural solutions, ecosystem impacts and regional nitrogen flows.
The "GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub" is a partnership that brings together 32 leading research organisations with project engagement partners from the UK and South Asia. All eight countries of the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) are included. The hub includes research on how to improve nitrogen management inagriculture, saving money on fertilizers and making better use of manure, urine and natural nitrogen fixation processes. It highlights options for more profitable and cleaner farming for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives. At the same time, the hub considers how nitrogen pollution could be turned back to fertilizer, for example by capturing nitrogen oxide gas from factories and converting it into nitrate.The fact that all the SACEP countries are included is really important. It means that lessons can be shared on good experiences as well as on whether there are cultural, economic and environmental differences that prevent better management practices from being adopted.
It is also important from the perspective of international diplomacy, and provides an example to demonstrate how working together on a common problem is in everyone's interest. It puts the focus on future cooperation for a healthier planet, rather than on the past.The South Asian case provides for some exciting scientific, social, cultural and economic research challenges. The first is simply to get all the researchers talking together and understanding each other. There are dozens of languages in South Asia, matching the challenge met when different research disciplines come together. This is where developing a shared language around nitrogen can really help. There are lots of nitrogen forms ranging from unreactive atmospheric nitrogen (N2), to the air pollutants ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), to nitrate (NO3-) which contaminates watercourses, and nitrous oxide (N2O) which is a greenhouse gas. The impacts of each of these are being studied to provide a better understanding of how they all fit together.The result is an approach that aims to give a much more coherent picture of the nitrogen cycle in South Asia: What is stopping us from taking action, and what can be done about it. One of the big expectations is that the economic value of nitrogen will help. India alone spends around £6 billion per year subsidising fertilizer supply. It means that South Asian governments are strongly motivated to use nitrogen better. At which point research from the South Asian hub can provide guidance on where they might start.