Every year September 16th is celebrated as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. Since 1995, this date has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This commemoration around the world offers an opportunity to focus attention and action at the global, regional and national levels on the protection of the ozone layer. The theme for this year’s celebrations is “HCFC phase out- a unique opportunity.”
What is Ozone Layer?
The Ozone Layer describes the protective layer of naturally occurring gas, comprised of three atoms of oxygen found about 10-50 km above the earth’s surface that protects us from the harmful ultraviolet radiation or UV-B rays of sun. Scientist in the 1970’s discovered that the layer was thinning as a result of the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), consequently, the Ozone Hole developed. In 1985, nations around the world convened at Vienna in an attempt to develop a framework for co-operative activities to protect the Ozone layer. This signed agreement became known as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.
The UNEP is monitoring compliance with the programmes of the international treaties aimed at eliminating the projection and use of ozone-depleting substances, including (CFCs), used as industrial refrigerants and in aerosols, and the pesticide methyl bromide.
Specifically, developing countries need to focus on eliminating the use of methyl bromide as an agricultural pesticide and they must halt illegal trade in CFCs.More than 130,000 new cases of melanoma are reported around the world and some 66,000 people die from skin cancer every year.
In 1987, representatives from 24 countries met in Montreal and announced to the world that it was time to stop destroying the ozone layer.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has been recognized as the most successful international environment treaty in history. Another testimony to its remarkable accomplishments, the Montreal Protocol has received universal ratification; all countries in the world have now ratified this landmark agreement. This brings together the whole international community to protect the ozone layer.
The Protocol was the culmination of decades of research, which established that chemicals containing chlorine and bromine released in the atmosphere could damage the ozone layer. A depleted ozone layer in the stratosphere allows the ultraviolet rays of the sun to reach the earth exposing mankind, flora and fauna to its harmful effects. According to the World Health Organization, each year between 12 to 15 million people become blind from cataracts worldwide, of which up to 20% may be caused or enhanced by sun exposure.
Initially on the basis of very definite empirical findings, the Protocol enjoined upon all the signatory nations to completely phase out the major Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons and carbon-tetrachloride (CTC) in a given time schedule. Later, other studies have brought more ODSs such as hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide under the ambit of the Protocol for phasing out within the given deadlines.
The Montreal Protocol which is in operation for more than twenty years had an extraordinary international cooperation and has led to complete phase-out of production and consumption of several ODSs. As of 1st January, 2010, the production and consumption of major ODSs like CFCs, CTC and halons have already been phased out globally. This has not only protected the stratospheric ozone but it has also immensely benefited the climate system.
India Shares Concern
India, being a Party to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, have been sharing the global concern for protecting the ozone layer and phase out of ODSs like CFCs, halons, CTC, methylchloroform, methylbromide and HCFCs. These chemicals are used in industrial and pharmaceutical aerosols, refrigeration and air-conditioning equipments, foam manufacturing, fire extinguishing equipment, metal-cleaning, garment cleaning, soil fumigation and quarantine and pre-shipment applications etc.
Since 1993 with the continued efforts made by stakeholders responsible for implementation of the Montreal Protocol activities, India has successfully phased-out completely the production and consumption of CFCs, CTC and halons except the use of pharmaceutical grade CFCs in manufacturing of Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs) for treatment of Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other respiratory ailments under the Essential Use Nomination (EUN) provisions of the Montreal Protocol.
India- Ahead of Schedule
India also proactively ceased the production and consumption of CFCs from 1st August, 2008, 17 months ahead of schedule of the Montreal Protocol. However, adequate steps were taken to ensure the supply of pharmaceutical grade CFCs for the critical sector, manufacturing of MDIs continue to serve millions of Asthma and COPD patients in our country through EUN provisions of the Protocol especially during the transition period. India got it approved of 343.6 MT of pharmaceutical grade CFCs for 2010 for manufacturing of MDIs in the country. The Indian MDI manufacturers have made an excellent progress in developing CFC-free formulations for most of the MDIs and placed CFC-free MDIs in the market. As a result, India did not seek any amount of CFC during 2011.
Recognizing the success of the Montreal Protocol in phasing out the ODSs like CTC, CFC and halons, the 19th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) held in September, 2007 had taken a decision to advance the phase-out of HCFCs by 10 years. The baseline for production and consumption of HCFCs will be determined on the average of the years 2009 and 2010 for production and consumption respectively. The freeze will be from 2013 and 10% reduction from the baseline in 2015 for stage–I reduction as per the accelerated phase-out schedule. The HCFC Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) is being prepared in close cooperation with the industry, concerned industry associations, research institutions, institutional user organizations, NGOs etc. The Sectoral Working Groups Meeting was organized in September 2009. Based on the outcome of the meeting, a Roadmap to Phase-out HCFCs in India was launched in October, 2009. The finalization of HPMP for Stage-I is in progress in consultation with the industry and other stakeholders.
Early Adoption of New Technologies
The Government has also taken a number of policy measures, both fiscal and regulatory, to encourage early adoption of new technologies by existing and new enterprises. The Customs and Excise duty exemption is granted on capital goods required to implement ODS phase out projects funded by the MLF and these physical incentives are also extended for new industrial establishments and expansion of existing capacities using non-ODS technologies. The Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 regulating ODS production, consumption and trade have also been put in place. These Rules are being enforced under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 with effect from 19th July, 2000. These Rules have been, further, amended from time to time to facilitate execution of national phase-out plans so as to meet the reduction targets as specified in the Protocol.