Day to mark importance of ozone layer

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IN what can be termed his first assignment in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has said numerous stakeholders will determine the success of his ministry.

He was addressing journalists at a press briefing in Harare to commemorate World Ozone Day which was held under the theme ‘A Healthy Atmosphere, The Future We Want.’

World Ozone Day is celebrated every September 16 and this year marks its 26th anniversary.

At least 197 countries are signatories to the Montreal Protocol whose main aim is to ensure the phasing out and reduction of the use of man-made chemicals, which are harmful to the ozone.

The ozone layer is a layer that protects the earth from the harmful ultraviolet radiation of the Sun.

It protects life on earth against skin cancer, eye cataracts, suppression of the immune system and drought.

Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said there is a lot of work to be done which needs the guidance of the stakeholders.

We rely on the stakeholders to help us succeed in this ministry,” Kasukuwere said.

There is a lot of work to be done and we need you to guide us in the right direction.

The Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer has provided an inspiring example, where the global community is truly succeeding in reaching sustainable development objectives.

Major focus now is to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.

The first group of chemicals to be phased out under the Montreal Protocol namely chlorofluorocarbons CFCs, halons and carbon tetrachloride had both high ozone depletion and global warming potentials.”

Minister Kasukuwere added that concentration is now on Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), which have high global warming potential.

The major remaining ODS are hydro- chlorofluorocarbons,” he said.

Although they have very low Ozone Depleting Potential ODPs, their global warming potential are very high making them unsafe to the climate system.”

Minister Kasukuwere said the major derailing efforts to the efforts made so far include ‘the importation of contaminated and banned refrigerants’.

However, he said his ministry was working with the customs officers from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to combat the illegal trade of the substances.

Customs officers at all ports of entry have been equipped with skills and tools to identify banned, mislabelled and contaminated refrigerants,” said Kasukuwere. “Illegal traders are forced to meet the cost of shipping back such consignments to the countries of origin.”

Kasukuwere appealed to importers to get the necessary approval before bringing suspicious refridgerants into the country.

Scientists believe that once ozone depleting substances are released into the atmosphere, they are broken down by intense ultra violet radiation from the sun to initiate a series of chemical reactions that destroy ozone molecules into the sky.

Chemicals such as methyl bromide, chlorofluorocarbons, halons, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform are some of the chemicals harmful to the ozone.

These are used in refridgerators, air conditioning, propelling aerosols, firefighting and foam blowing and cleaning chemicals.

When such chemicals are released into the atmosphere, they are broken down by intense ultra violet radiation to initiate a series of chemical reactions that destroy the ozone molecules in the atmosphere.

Tobacco Research Board and the Grain Marketing Board have already adopted technologies that are ozone friendly such as floating trays and use of phosphine in grain preservation.

Currently Zimbabwe has reduced the use of methyl bromide consumption from a baseline of 557 Ozone Depleting Potential to 3 ODP in 2011.

Chloroflourocarbons consumption in refrigeration and air conditioning has been completely phased out from a baseline level of 457 ODP tonnes.

The main celebrations of the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer were held in Kwekwe.

Meanwhile, Minister Kasukuwere and Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi have called for timely reaction to disasters by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

This follows the poisoning with cyanide and dehorning of 61 elephants at the Hwange National Park by six men in Tsholotsho.

Parks and Wildlife Authority officials and the Matabeleland North police officers say despite being alerted to the problem at the beginning of this month the EMA had not responded until the Minister responsible took a trip to the area.

After this disaster, we need to resource the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in terms of vehicles, radio equipment, aerial surveillance and training,” said Kasukuwere.

We also need to engage sister departments such as the security services.”

Minister Mzembi said EMA had not been on the ground until they heard that the minister was coming to see for himself.

So from the time that we have lost the first 17 to the next 41 elephants, there has not been any EMA presence and we cannot proceed without their professional input as to what is the impact of the disaster on the ground,” said Mzembi.

Hwange National Park area manager Trumber Jura revealed that although EMA responded late, the authority is currently resource constrained in terms of vehicles, staff shortage and skills training to match the current method of poaching.

A team of 22 police officers and 27 parks and wildlife authority officials have since been on the ground to manually identify spots, where cyanide still remains in the soil and disposing of it so that animals do not die.

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