Inception meeting of the UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub

NEWS India-UK pioneered a cooperation between leading agricultural and environmental research institutes in India and the UK. This cooperation is now being extended to South Asia with a wider range of challenges. The new nexus, called the UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub, brings together researchers from ecology to engineering and from natural to social sciences from 8 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Buthan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The inception meeting of the Hub was hosted by Kathmandu University, in cooperation with Tribuhvan University during 25-27 February, 2019, in Nepal, Kathmandu. Over 100 partners attended together with government representatives of all eight South Asian countries, in partnership with the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).

Host of the meeting, Prof. Subodh Sharma, Registrar of Kathmandu University said “The Inception Meeting being held in Kathamandu has given us insight into the GCRF funded South Asian Nitrogen Hub. This has been very fruitful and we are now all geared towards a common goal.”

Hon. Ganesh Shah, former Environment Minister of Nepal also joined the meeting. He commented: “There is a shortage of public understanding of the nitrogen topic compared with the different sectors of environmental concern. It is vital that we sensitise society to the importance of the nitrogen circular economy. This means making the connection between scientists, business and environmental activists, to synthesise knowledge, building on our collaboration with UK partners.” 

 “It is a great opportunity to bring all the South Asian nations to have a unified system of nitrogen use for a positive gain for agriculture and the environment.” – said Prof Tapan Adhya, co-director of the Hub, from KIIT University, Bhubaneswar. Prof Mark Sutton, Hub director, from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology added:

“The GCRF Nitrogen Hub is bringing together all eight countries of South Asia from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka to work for a joined-up approach that fosters sustainable development for cleaner air and water, climate resilience, health and livelihoods.” 

From L to R: Prof. Tapan Adhya, Dr. Colin MacKechnie, Prof. Dr. Ram Kantha Makaju, Ms Aminath Shazly,
Prof. Subodh Sharma, Mr Pete Richie, Dr Shazla Mohamed, Prof. Mark Sutton.

“It has been excellent to meet in Kathmandu, which is widely accessible for our partners and provides a microcosm of all the nitrogen challenges. It is excellent to have strong engagement from the Nepalese government under the lead of the Hon. Minister of Agriculture & Livestock Chakra Pani Khanal.” 

Mr Pete Richie, Director of the civil society organisation “Nourish Scotland” commented: “I have been brought face to face with the reality of nitrogen pollution and it is much easier to see the problems than the solutions.”

Participants of the meeting were also excited about the cooperation and the work of the Hub, among them Ms Samikshya Chhetri and Mr Bibek Shrestha from Kathmandu University.

“In general we are all aware about carbon, but this programme is like an eye opener for nitrogen and its effects”,

said Ms Chhetri and Mr Shrestha added: “It is interesting to find how international consortiums work with multi-lateral partners towards a complex problem such as nitrogen pollution”.

Ms Aminath Shazly, lecturer at Maldives National University, said: “I am still amazed at the different scales and levels that we have to look into when we are talking about the problem of nitrogen. It is totally amazing!” Dr Shazla Mohamed, dean of Engineering, Science and Technology of Maldives National University, commented “I am starting to understand the magnitude of the problem for nitrogen management in the Maldives and the wider community. We have a huge issue in bringing together scattered data on nitrogen related issues.”

Dr Colin MacKechnie, Business Development Manager at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: 

“Despite nitrogen being a problem that governments have only recently become aware of, it’s wonderful to see the commitment of all the governments in South Asia who will help deliver the policy changes that are necessary.  This is not just science talking to science, but science talking outwards with governments, business and civil society.”

Prof Mark Sutton added, “It’s great to see the partners working together sharing their knowledge between South Asian countries. There is no one expert of the whole nitrogen cycle; it means that everyone has something to offer as we learn as a team”.

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