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Study Shows Dangers of India’s Reliance on Nitrogen-Based Fertilizers

According to the study, called the Indian Nitrogen Assessment, the usage of urea and other such fertilizers have gone up tremendously in the past 60 years.

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Updated:March 12, 2018, 3:20 PM IST
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Study Shows Dangers of India’s Reliance on Nitrogen-Based Fertilizers
File photo of a farmer spraying pesticide. Representative image. Photo: Reuters
New Delhi: A 10 year long study has shown the dangers of India’s reliance on nitrogen-based fertilizers, showing how they pollute land and water. Published in the environment maqazine, Down to Earth, the study said that fertilizers such as urea have been adversely affecting people’s health and contributing to climate change.

The study, called the Indian Nitrogen Assessment, was undertaken by the Indian Nitrogen Group (ING), led by Professor N Raghuram, the group’s president, and Dean of the School of Biotechnology, GGS Indraprastha University, Punjab.

According to the study, the usage of urea and other such fertilizers have gone up tremendously in the past 60 years. In 1960-61, urea made up 10 percent of the total nitrogen fertilizer base in India, and by 2015-16, it made up 82 percent. This has tipped the balance of soil nutrients – too much nitrogen in the soil reduces its carbon content and therefore the amount of nutrients needed for a good crop yield.

It’s not the urea used by crops that’s a problem, but the substantial amount that is wasted in agriculture. In the past five decades, said the DTE report, an indian farmer has sued an average of 6000 kg of urea, of which only 33 percent is used by the cereal crops it is needed for. The rest is absorbed by soil and water, wreaking environmental havoc.

Haryana, said the report, was the worst off, with 99.5 mg of nitrates in a litre of water, against the WHO norm of 50 mg per litre.

Apart from affected crop yields, too much nitrate in water has affected children’s health too, said the report. Affected children suffer lowered oxygen levels, continuous diarrhea, respiratory problems, and high blood pressure, a condition known as the ‘blue baby syndrome’.

Meanwhile, the nitrous oxide formed and emitted by these fertilsers is a potent greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change conditions.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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