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4th UN Environment Assembly held in Nairobi

4th UN Environment Assembly held in Nairobi

The Fourth Environment Assembly was held in Nairobi, focusing on the theme “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production.

India pilots two resolutions at the UN Environment Assembly which are single-use plastics and sustainable nitrogen management, at the fourth session of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The UN Environment adopted both the resolutions with consensus.

Sustainable Nitrogen Management: Why it is required?

Nitrogen, which is a vital macronutrient for most plants, is the most abundant element in the atmosphere. A little over 78% of dry air on Earth is nitrogen.

But atmospheric nitrogen, or dinitrogen, is unreactive and cannot be utilised by plants directly.

Nitrogen is an inert gas that’s necessary for life. But we’re changing it into forms that are harmful, overloading the environment with it, and throwing the natural nitrogen cycle out of whack.

Nitrogen compounds running off farmland have led to water pollution problems around the world, while nitrogen emissions from industry, agriculture and vehicles make a big contribution to air pollution.

Over 80% of the nitrogen in soil is not utilised by humans. While over four-fifths of the nitrogen is used to feed livestock, only about six per cent reaches humans in case of non-vegetarian diet, as compared to the 20% that reaches the plate of a vegetarian.

Nitrogen becomes a pollutant when it escapes into the environment and reacts with other organic compounds. It is either released into the atmosphere, gets dissolved in water sources such as rivers, lakes or groundwater, or remains in the soil. While it might lead to favourable growth of species that can utilise this nutrient, nitrogen as a pollutant is often detrimental to the environment and health.

Nitrogen Pollution Impact on the Environment

It creates harmful algal blooms and dead zones in our waterways and oceans; the algae produce toxins which are harmful to human and aquatic organisms (and indirectly affects fisheries and biodiversity in coastal areas).

It contaminates the drinking water. 10 million people in Europe are potentially exposed to drinking water with nitrate concentrations above recommended levels. This can have an adverse effect on human health.

Excessive nitrogen fertiliser application contributes to soil nutrient depletion. As the world needs to feed an ever growing population, loss of arable land is major global problem.

The release of Nitrous Oxide is essentially a greenhouse gas which is harmful to the environment.

India on the forefront of banning Single Use Plastic

So far, 22 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products. Puducherry is implementing a ban from March 1.

India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

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