South Asia Demonstration

Background

  • South Asia mainly comprises the sub-Himalayan countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, located in the Southern part of Asia between the Himalayas on the North and the Indian Ocean on the south. Together, they cover an area of about 4.5 million km² (over 1.7 million mi²), with less than 5% of the world’s land mass, 14% of the global arable land, 2.73% of the world forest area and 4% of the world’s coastline and yet support over 25% of the world's population and over 45% of Asia's population.
  • Both agriculture and industry contribute massively to the region’s economy. Uneven development is common, both within and between countries of South Asia, partly due to the huge diversity of soil types, water availability, climate, socioeconomic and governance factors. This also implies contrasting situations in terms of N management. While the smaller, irrigated areas are characterized by intensive fertilizer usage, there is only a little applied in the larger, rainfed areas. There is further difference in N management between the peri-urban areas dominated by intensive livestock farming, and the rural areas where this type of agricultural management is less prevalent. Usable N is lost to ground water and surface water bodies through agricultural run offs, sewage, animal and human excreta, and also into the air due to emission of reactive N compounds from agricultural soils, livestock, sewage dumps, residue burning, vehicular and industrial emissions and industrial waste.
  • In the selected countries (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka) the main factors influencing the N flows are a) the strong N exchange over the thickly vegetated cropping regions; b) the huge amount of cattle excreta generated by the enormous cattle population; c) the high amount of municipal solid waste produced at the densely populated regions; and d) the strong agricultural activities, using organic and synthetic N fertilizers. In terms of N flows and cycling in the environment, these factors make these countries a coherent region.
  • The coastal habitats of South Asia are at a high risk of eutrophication due to the accumulation of reactive N, apart from other nutrients. There are pockets of coastal eutrophication around the Indian peninsula, and N-loading has been observed also in several lakes and other inland water bodies, in addition, high levels of nitrates has been reported in the ground water in some places. The lack of their systematic geographical or chronological documentation has hampered credible trend analyses and thus, prevented informed decision on sustainable N management.

Role in Towards INMS

  • The overall aim of the South Asian demonstration under INMS is to collect all the available information on reactive nitrogen to quantify the overall N budget for the region, mainly based on data from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries to the extent available.
  • A better quantification of the reactive N scenario. This is essential in the South Asian region, for a more accurate understanding of the global N-cycle, as well as for the development of a realistic International N Management System. Given that South Asia is the most populous and the fastest growing region of the world with a distinct socio-economic, cultural and climatic profile, this region also offers a tropical testing ground for the validation of assumptions made on the basis of Western experience. This could in turn enable the adoption of more informed means of estimating the region’s N-budget as well as its contribution to the global N-budget.

Outputs

  • The work programme involves collation of data on reactive N usage and/or its leakages from various relevant sectors such as agriculture, industry, traffic and domestic sewage and their N-loading into the soil, air, inland water bodies and coastal systems. The data will be collected on national, state and even higher levels in order to broadly identify the most N-polluting sector(s) and region(s). The past, present and future trends will be identified from the available data, based on the changes in population, consumption, landuse, policies etc. The technologies and practices in widespread use, as well as the availability and penetration of more efficient technologies/practices and the experience with such interventions will be documented as case studies. Knowledge dissemination to stakeholders would result in better N use and management and better N end-usage.
  • Being the most populous and the fastest growing region of the world with a distinct socio-economic, cultural and climatic profile, a better quantification of the reactive N scenario in the South Asian region is very essential for a more accurate understanding of the global N-cycle as well as for the development of a realistic International N Management System. The development/demonstration of local capacity for N-cycle assessment could catalyse better regional cooperation and future global engagement at the scientific and policy levels in reactive N management. 

For more information on the partners that are part of this Regional Demonstration please see our Regional Case Study Partners page.