Consequences of Air Pollution for Food Security
By: Lisa D.
pollution can have disastrous consequences on agriculture close to pollutant
sources. Research at the Stockholm Environment Institute at York (SEI-Y) is
assessing the link between air pollution, agricultural production and
subsequent food security. Dr Lisa Emberson of SEI-Y, who is co-editor of a
recently published book entitled Air Pollution Impacts on Crops and Forests,
says that studies conducted in the Hunan Province of China found that sulphur
dioxide originating from coal-burning power stations resulted in 100% yield
losses for sensitive crop species; similarly in India, crops grown in the
vicinity of power plants recorded yield reductions of up to 50%.
it is the regional pollutant ozone that is perceived as the biggest threat to
future agricultural productivity since levels reach high concentrations over
remoter rural agricultural areas. Ozone is a secondary pollutant that is formed
by the effect of sunlight on other pollutants, and filtration studies conducted
in Pakistan illustrate the dramatic growth reductions caused by ambient ozone
impacts on agricultural productivity can have serious implications where
problems of food scarcity exist; studies in India have found that vulnerable
sectors of society such as the poor and malnourished as well as those depending
on sustainable agriculture for their livelihoods are more severely affected.
The book has collated key studies in an attempt to assess the consequences of
current and future global air pollutant concentrations on agricultural systems.
The Asian region was identified as that facing the most serious risks to
agricultural productivity both now and in the future.
Site-specific studies have brought attention to the problems caused by air
pollution however, the magnitude and spatial scale of the problem is hard to
quantify across an area the size of Asia. Such assessments are urgently needed
to develop appropriate emission abatement or adaptation policies. SEI-Y has
established an Asian Air Pollution Network to bring together air pollution
impact scientists to assess impacts in a standardized manner. A workshop in
Bangkok organized by Dr Emberson recently bought together 30 delegates from 15
different countries to initiate a co-ordinated effort to assess air pollution
A list of
distinguished participants from various countries at the Workshop and the
titles of their respective presentations are given as under:
Emberson (U.K.): Introduction to the RAPIDC Programme; Prof. Yoshihisa Kohno
(Japan): Current knowledge: Chronic effects of air pollutants on trees in Far
East Asia; Prof. Hakan Pleijel (Sweden): Air quality and risk assessment in
Europe and North America; Prof. Frank Murray (Australia): The need of
standardised experimental protocols and observations; Dr. Mark Zunckel (South
Africa): Approaches used in southern Africa: Assessing biological impacts;
Prof. Andreas Klumpp (Germany): Applicaion og bio-monitoring techniques in
developing countries; Prof. John Sheehy (IRRI, Phillipines): Monitoring
exposures of agricultural crops to O3,NOx,SO2: implications for yield
reductions; Prof. K. Kobayashi (Japan): Challenges in predicting the impacts of
increasing surface ozone concentration on crop productivity in Asia; Prof. P.K.
Jha (Nepal): Effects of pollution and climate change on crops and forests in
Nepal; Dr. M. Iyngararasan (UNEP): Policy processes in Asia: The implementation
of the Male Declaration in South Asia.
there was a strong representation at the Workshop. The names of participants
and titles of their papers are as follows:
Madhoolika Agrawal (BHU, Varanasi): (1) Current knowledge: Major approaches of
air pollution research on plants in Asia, (2) Experimental work on agricultural
crops (transect and field site studies); Dr. H.M. Behl (NBRI, Lucknow): (1) Air
pollution impacts on biodiversity: Assessing the effects of landscaping
remediation using bio-indicators, (2) Education, Networking and Information
Dissemination; Prof. C.K. Varshney ( J.N.U., New Delhi): The effects of air
pollution on Indian crop plants and trees; Dr. S.B. Agrawal (BHU, Varanasi):
Experimental evidence on effects of air pollution on agricultural crops; Dr.
Ram Boojh (CEE, Lucknow): Air quality and policy in Asia.
Dr. Ms. Lisa D. Emberson
is Scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute at York, Biology Dept.,
University of York, York, Y0I0 S5YW, U. K.