Posted 16 September 2011, by Nafeesa M P, Daijiworld (Daijiworld Media Pvt Ltd), daijiworld.com
We see every new cosmetic brand guaranteeing protection from the sun, is it not the same sun our elders were faced with each day while working hard in their fields? Is it not the same sun which keeps us warm and sources energy for all the processes on the earth? Answer for these questions is a harsh reality which tells us the tale of pollution we have inflicted. The consequences of so called industrial development have reached the skies damaging the ozone layer which protects us from sun radiations. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and other Ozone depleting substances containing the chemicals chlorine and bromine are the culprits.
Ozone is the layer of ozone gas that is set 15 to 30 kilometers above the earth and serves as a shield to protect the earth dwellers from the harmful Ultra Violet B (UVB) rays beamed out from the sun. Ozone is a highly reactive molecule containing three oxygen atoms, which is constantly being broken and formed above the atmosphere in a region called Stratosphere.
Scientist in the 1970’s discovered that the layer was thinning and as a result of the release of CFC’s, and consequently, the Ozone Hole developed. CFCs, which are used as industrial refrigerants and found in aerosol sprays have caused the breakdown of the ozone layer for last 50 years. The CFCs reaching the upper atmosphere are exposed to UV rays which causes them to break down into Chlorine substances. This chlorine reacts with oxygen which in turn depletes the ozone. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency one atom of chlorine destroys more than a hundred thousand ozone molecules.
The ozone above the Antarctic has been impacted due to pollution since mid-1980s, low temperature in the region speeds up the conversion of CFCs into Chlorine. During the southern summer when the sun shines for longer periods in the region the ozone break down occurs on a massive scale that is up to 65 percent. This is called ‘Ozone Hole’, whereas in other regions ozone is depleted up to 20 percent.
It is a bitter fact that more than 130,000 new cases of Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer are reported each year around the world. The disease can also be caused by excessive exposure to the Ultra Violet B (UVB) rays beamed towards the earth from the sun. The extra UVB radiation which is reaching the earth due to ozone depletion inhibits the reproductive cycle of many single celled organisms, which are the root of the food cycle. Researchers have also found variations in the reproductive cycles of fish and other under water species.
Since 1995 on September 16 each year the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is observed. The day is observed to focus on the protection of the ozone layer at global, national and local level. The day has been designated by the UN General Assembly to commemorate Montreal Protocol.
Nations around the world convened at Vienna in 1985 to develop a framework for co-operative activities to protect the Ozone layer and the agreement became known as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) monitors programmes of the international treaties aimed at eliminating the production and use of ozone-depleting substances.
The Montreal Protocol which was agreed upon on September 16, 1987 at the Headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal stipulated that production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere are to be phased out by the year 2000. A Multilateral Fund (MLF) has been established as a financial instrument of the Montreal Protocol, which assists developing countries in the implementation of the protocol.
India acceded to the Montreal Protocol September 17, 1992 India’s per capita consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances is at present less than 3 grams and did not cross 20 gms as against 300 gms permitted under the Protocol.
As of now about 90 percent of the CFCs present in atmosphere were emitted by developed countries in the northern hemisphere including US and Europe. The amount of chlorine in the atmosphere dropped down following the ban of CFCs in these countries in the year 1996. But scientific estimates still predict that it will take another 50 years for the chlorine levels to reach natural level.