Issue #13: April 2019

Addressing the Nutrient Challenge – Promoting effective nutrient management, minimizing negative impacts on the environment and human health, while maximizing contribution to global sustainable development, food security & poverty reduction.


Linking nutrient and wastewater pollution to degradation of coral reef ecosystems in Sri Lanka.

© Glenn Edney / grida.no

Sri Lanka and the wider South-Asia region is home to diverse coral reefs that over the years have provided significant benefits to communities and natural capital in the region. However, recently corals have been degrading due to sedimentation, decreased salinity due to changes in flow patterns, and pollution from agricultural and wastewater runoff, leading to bleaching.

UN Environment and the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) along with local agencies including the Marine Environmental Prevention Authority, the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment and the University of Peridinya - have collaborated on a project to ''reduce the risk of degradation of the Kayankerni and Paskudah coral reef ecosystems by addressing nutrient, wastewater and other land-based sources of marine pollution''. The project started in March 2018 and ran until April 2019. The project outcomes included: Development of field best management practice guidelines on nutrient pollution mitigation; organizing three national and one regional training event on implementing best practice for pollution mitigation; and one inter-regional technical exchange for at least 10 relevant industry practitioners/users and professionals from Sri Lanka.

The project is intended to serve as a demonstration case study for the wider South Asia region facilitated through South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP), supported by the Global Programme of Action and the Coral Reef Unit of UN Environment. On 30 April 2019 UN Environment facilitated a meeting with all the South Asia countries representatives (governments, experts and scientists) attending the Fourth International Nitrogen Management System (INMS-4) Project Meeting. Experts in attendance agreed to develop a trans-boundary International Waters Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project aimed at protecting of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass in the Maduru Oya watershed, in the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME), and also in the Arabian Sea. The process of developing a project concept paper is under-way and will hopefully be submitted to the GEF Secretariat by March 2020 for their review.

For more photos from the inception mission to Sri Lanka see: GPNM Flickr photo site


UNEA-4 Calls for Strengthened Approach to Sustainable Nitrogen Management

Group photo of the UNEA-4 High-Level Segment

The fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) held at the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya from 11 to 15 March 2019 brought together more than 4,000 delegates from governments and global major groups and stakeholders. Member states, guided by the theme ''Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production'', agreed that its time to ''solve different''. Member States went a significant way in exploring different environmental challenges and adopted a Ministerial Declaration, 23 resolutions and three decisions on: innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production; resource efficiency, chemicals and waste; biodiversity and ecosystems; environmental governance; the UN Environment programme of work and budget, and other administrative and budgetary Issues.

The Sustainable Nitrogen Management resolution, led by the Government of India, was one of the resolution adopted at UNEA-4. Member states recognized that reactive nitrogen has adverse pollution impacts on terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. Poor nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) management contributes to world's food security.

UN Environment, under the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM), was recognized as a suitable initiative in collaboration with other relevant UN bodies, regional groups and stakeholders. In the next two years, the GPNM will take the lead in facilitating better coordination of policies on the nitrogen cycle; explore sustainable options for nitrogen management; coordinate existing relevant platforms for assessment of improved nitrogen management; conduct capacity-building activities for policy-makers and practitioners; and support member states on informed decision-making on nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) management.

For further information on the resolution, click here or contact GPNM at unenvironment-gpa@un.org


Nitrogen Cycle Pollution Profiled in the 2018/19 edition of the UN Environment Frontiers Report

© Lynn Ketchum / Oregon State University, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2018/19 edition of the UN Environment Frontiers Report focusing on the emerging issues of environmental concern, was launched on Monday 4 March 2019 at the fourth session of the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) to UN Environment. The report presents various issues among them - ''The Nitrogen Fix: From Nitrogen Cycle Pollution to Nitrogen Circular Economy''. The panelists were Prof. Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; and Prof. N. Raghuram from GGS Indraprastha University, New Delhi, India.

© UN Environment

Too much nitrogen in the atmosphere has adverse impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. While there have been some efforts at national level, a truly holistic approach to implementing effective nitrogen management strategies will require international cooperation. If the ''Sustainable Nitrogen Management'' resolution is successful, the transition to a circular economy for nitrogen could be a trailblazer for wise scientific and policy decisions aimed at achieving the goal of a pollution-free planet.


Global Nutrient Cycle project Close-out meeting

UN Environment which serves as the Secretariat of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land Based Activities (GPA); under the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) is committed to tackling the nutrient problem (both nitrogen and phosphorus) at a global scale under the GEF-funded project on Global foundations for reducing nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion from land based pollution, in support of Global Nutrient Cycle (GNC). The GNC project, started in March 2012, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) at a cost of US$ 1,718,182. This project is executed by the GPA under the GPNM and implemented by the Corporate Services Division in UN Environment.

UN Environment engaged different partners in project execution. The partners are the: Chilika Development Authority (CDA), Energy Research Centre (ECN), Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF), World Resources Institute (WRI), Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP), and GRID-Arendal. The lead experts under each component were as follows:

GNC Project components main technical partners

The GNC project has achievement three main outputs:

1. Global nutrient management toolbox development

A Toolbox will demonstrate the importance of leveraging diverse partners to engage in working towards nutrients management from field to national scale. To increase the effectiveness and impacts of the toolbox, there is a need to develop a sustainability plan for formal, long-term ownership and support; put greater emphasis on outreach and obtaining stakeholder buy-in early on; consider the scale of application and users; and translate materials and provide trainings in other languages

2. Nutrient flow modelling – application of the Global NEWS Model

Scaling down the global news model for manila bay will require ensuring stakeholders have a basic level of technical competency; ensuring sufficient, high quality local data are available; engaging government and the private sector early in process to encourage cooperation and receptivity; and having a committed group of partners to champion the issue to help advance solutions.

3. Development and application of the Ecosystem Health Report Card

Two Ecosystems Health Report Cards were developed, in Chilika Lake, India and Laguna de Bay, Philippines. Recommendations are to: find a local champion; create a plan for ongoing assessments; carry out frequent monitoring and evaluation to help attribute water quality improvements to report cards; develop a robust stakeholder engagement process and ensure local ownership of the report card; and leverage experiences from the report card community.

The Good news is that the GNC project has graduated to the Toward an International Nitrogen Management System (INMS) Project which is keen to address nitrogen issues globally. It is expected that the main outputs from the GNC project will be incorporated in the Toward an International Nitrogen Management System (INMS) Project executed by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and implemented by UN Environment.


Opportunities and technologies for recovering and reusing Nutrients from wastewater

Wastewater is an asset, with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus being essential elements that plants need for growth. Many researchers are now inventing Best Management Practices to extract the ammonia from wastewater without converting it, through use of urine-diverting toilets and using it as fertilizer after sanitizing it to remove pathogens.

On 27 April 2019, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) organized the “Joint Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) and Global Wastewater Initiative (GW2I) Meeting”. The meeting brought together members of both partnerships for the first time with the primary objective of fostering synergies and opportunities for future collaboration. The participants also shared their expertise, and discussed relevant topics related to both partnerships, such as the reuse of wastewater in agriculture, technology, funding, policy, communication, and education, and highlighted good practices and ongoing activities in these fields.

During the meeting

The outcomes of the joint meeting discussed how to strengthen the synergies between the two partnerships through; restructuring the composition of the steering committees so they are fit for purpose to deliver the expected progress; building on the momentum of already existing projects and initiatives (including existing good practices and experiences, for example, the Global Soil Partnership, or the Global Challenge Research Fund); ensuring effective science communication by the partnerships on the development of products and; creating a joint database by the two partnerships which will, in turn, be used by the International Nitrogen Management System for policy actions.

Participants during breaks


Fourth Meeting of the International Nitrogen Management System (INMS-4)

The fourth meeting of the International Nitrogen Management System (INMS-4) was held on 29 April – 2 May 2019 at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi. The meeting included a high-level segment on 29 - 30 April with representatives of countries, intergovernmental conventions and programmes, together with scientists and business, civil society and other stakeholders. The high-level segment allowed rapid follow-up of the resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management adopted by the fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEP/EA.4/L.16).

There is recognition of the need for multiple opportunities for better nitrogen management associated with water, air, climate, biodiversity, soils, stratospheric ozone, food and energy, including the need to develop improved coordination between relevant multi-lateral environmental agreements (MEAs). We endorsed the proposal of the UNEA-4 resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management to establish an Inter-convention Nitrogen Coordination Mechanism and identified the next steps. It was agreed that coordination is needed to address sustainable nitrogen management at three levels including the interactions between these levels:

  1. Intergovernmental co-ordination, especially between countries, conventions, other MEA’s and stakeholders
  2. National co-ordination within countries, between different ministries, agencies and other stakeholders
  3. Provision of science and technical information in support of national and international policy processes, under the guidance of governments.

For more information contact Prof. Mark Sutton at ms@ceh.ac.uk


Tighter regulations needed on nutrient effluents

Source: Prof. N. Raghuram, Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiatives

India has emerged as the only country in South-Asia region to produce a nitrogen assessment report in 2018. The report highlights linkages on the health impacts of dietary and respiratory exposure to various reactive nitrogen compounds. The Government of India, through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is leading on exploring available opportunities in addressing reactive nitrogen in India. The government held special dialogue sessions during the World Environment Day in Delhi in 2018 - also covering reactive compounds in the National Air Pollution Control Plan.

Significantly, the Government of India presented a resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management during the Fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly which was adopted by member states. The resolution will strengthen national and regional coordination in managing nitrogen pollution which is destroying marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves and other marine/freshwater ecosystems.


NEAT—a satellite-based technique to keep an eye on growing eutrophication threat to oceans

Source: Prof. N. Raghuram, Chair of International Nitrogen Initiatives

Toxic algal blooms ©environmentalpollutioncenters.org

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus compounds entering our waterways and oceans presents a huge challenge to maintaining the health of our aquatic ecosystems. Where there is too much nutrient entering rivers, lakes and oceans, harmful algae can grow in the water to a point where it becomes excessive and as the algae dies, its decomposition uses up the oxygen in the water column. This process is called Eutrophication in which excessive nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from agricultural, industrial and urban waste finds their way into the ocean and sea, causing a dense growth of algae. This process results in oxygen depletion of the water body.

Mitigation of harmful algal blooms in Qinghuangdao Coast of Bohai Sea. Photo by Zaixing Wu, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

In 2008, over 2,400km2 in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea experienced massive algae blooms which cost more than US$ 100 million to treat. The Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) in collaboration with marine scientists from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation endorsed the effectiveness of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan Eutrophication Assessment Tool (NEAT) in protecting the region from eutrophication that threatens marine and human health and can severely harm fisheries and tourism. Regional Seas NOWPAP intends to collaborate with global online search giant Google and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to test NEAT to monitor eutrophication in oceans around the world, using cloud computing.

Please see the potential eutrophication zones in NOWPAP region at: https://cloudgis.nowpap3.go.jp/en/map-pez/

For more information, please contact Ning Liu, Programme Officer, Northwest Pacific Action Plan of UN Environment, ning.liu@un.org, tel: +82 51 720 3001.


Nutrient management: key to feeding a hungry planet

Source: Ken Giller, Wagenigen University, Netherlands



Albin Hubscher joined the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) as President and CEO in February 18, 2019. He replace J. Scott Angle.


Dr. Christopher Cox has left the GPA team and is currently the GEF Task Manager on Biodiversity based in Panama. Dr. Cox was the project manager for the GEF- GNC project from 2014 to May 2019.


IFA/IFDC Training on Production of Slow-, Controlled Release and Stabilized Fertilizers, Frankfurt, Germany, 24 -26 June 2019. Visit the website

U.S. Study Tour: Technology Advances in Agricultural Production, Water and Nutrient Management, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., USA, 19-30, August 2019

Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) South Asian Nitrogen Hub, Maldives, 2-4 September 2019


PARTICIPATE IN THIS IMPORTANT SURVEY...will take a few minutes of your time. The GPNM Secretariat wishes to know how we may better suit the needs of the nutrient management community. Please access the survey on the link here.



The Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) is a multi-stakeholder partnership comprising of governments, the private sector, the scientific community, civil society organizations and UN agencies committed to promoting effective nutrient management (with a focus on nitrogen and phosphorus) to achieve the twin goals of food security through increased productivity and conservation of natural resources and the environment. UN Environment, through the Coordination Office of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), provides the Secretariat of GPNM. Read more at: www.nutrientchallenge.org. For more information contact Christopher Cox at christopher.cox@un.org or Milcah Ndegwa at milcah.ndegwa@un.org

JOIN the GPNM! Access the application form here.

Website: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/oceans-seas/what-we-do/addressing-land-based-pollution/global-partnership-nutrient

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