Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ozone Depletion And The Way Forward

The theme chosen for this year’s celebration of world ozone day, "a healthy atmosphere, the future we want", is most appropriate given current pollution of the atmosphere by chemical substances which are threats to the ozone layer. The Creator of the Universe in his infinite wisdom in creating earth placed a protective layer known as the ozone between earth and the sun to protect the earth from the ultra-violet rays sent down by the Sun. The Sun's rays are thus absorbed by the Ozone in the stratosphere and this does not reach the earth. Unfortunately through human activity vis-a-vis the use of harmful chemicals and industry, we keep destroying the ozone and the dangers in doing that are catastrophic. When the ozone is depleted, the sun rays are focused on humans, there is climate change and the air quality is polluted. Ozone depleting substances like Chlorofluorocarbon and Methyl Bromide have become part of us and if care is not taken, we risk our very existence as humans. For instance, industries that manufacture items like insulating foams, solvents, soaps, cooling items like air conditioners and " take-away containers use Chlorofluorocarbons, CFC's, and when these are released into the atmosphere they go to destroy the ozone. Methyl Bromide on the other hand is a highly efficacious broad spectrum fumigant used to fumigate the soil for control of soil-borne pests, diseases and weeds of high value crops. It is also used for quarantine and pre-shipment applications.

Even though attempts are being made to phase out these ozone depletion substances, measures put in place are not far reaching. It has been sometime now since the Ministry of Energy banned the importation of used fridges with CFC's yet they are all over the market. It is as if we are joking. With Methyl Bromide, even though the deadline for its phase out as set by the Montreal Protocol is 2015, this is quite unachievable given its low price and connection with food security. A recent Regional Consultative meeting for Methyl Bromide experts in Nairobi Kenya cited various challenges to the sustainability of the Methyl Bromide phase out programme. These include factors such as the arrival of new users that were not sufficiently informed and trained on alternatives and stringent quality requirements imposed by markets. Training and technology transfer are important components of achieving sustainability in the Methyl Bromide phase out. At the heart of the global debate on climate change is the issue of high temperatures that are attributed to the excessive emission of harmful greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture. The effect of these emissions is the depletion of the ozone layer that gives cause to unusually high temperatures and its attendant negative effects on crop production.

As we mark World Ozone day today, let us seriously reflect on how to curb climate change since future growth is threatened by that. Increasing temperatures across the various ecological zones where rainfall patterns are also becoming less predictable must make us sit up. World Ozone Day is opportune. We need introspection as to how we have individually or collectively contributed to Ozone depletion. The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and Environmental Protection Agency must map out strategies to educate the people and rekindle in them the need to protect the Ecosystem. We must grow more trees and stop falling the few that we have. We owe it an obligation to posterity to keep the atmosphere healthy and we have no alternative. If we want to do away with diseases like skin cancer then we must seriously protect the ozone. The right time is now.


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