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Ozone Layer Depletion A Threat to the Environment
by Ankita Kumar

“There is enough on this earth for man’s needs but not for his greed.”

How true! Man has been continuously plundering and pillaging Mother Nature not only for his needs but also for his selfish desires for more.

Whether it is emanation of smoke from automobiles or emission of poisonous gases from factories, release of toxicants from air conditioners or liberation of lethal chemicals from refrigerators, each one of these have polluted the environment to such an extent that today the world suffers from the eye-smarting, lung-scarring curse we call “Ozone Layer Depletion”.

The ozone layer is a thin band in the upper atmosphere which serves to shield the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. It also helps in reducing the risks of mutation and harm to plant and animal life as well as helps to reduce cataract, sun-burn and skin cancer which are caused by the ultraviolet radiations of the sun.

In the 1970s, scientists discovered that human activities were the greatest cause of upsetting this delicate balance of production and destruction of ozone. It was found that the layer was being attacked by releasing Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) like chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs coming from air conditioners, cleaning solvents, aerosol sprays and refrigerators. It was also caused due to the reaction of nitrogen oxides with hydrocarbons in the air to produce aldehydes and ketones. In New Delhi, Los Angeles, London and other great cities it comes in large parts from automobile engines. In Tokyo things have come to such a stage that traffic policemen pause regularly to breathe oxygen.

The consequences of the depletion of the ozone layer are dramatic. Increased ultraviolet radiation leads to a growing number of skin cancers and cataracts and also reduces the ability of people's immune systems to respond to infection. UV radiations also affect plants by increasing germination that reduces crop yield. It causes severe damage in the early development stage of shrimps, crabs and amphibians. Additionally, the growth rates of the world's oceanic plankton, the base of most marine food chains, have been negatively affected, leading to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and thus to global warming.
Scientists and government officials have now realized that we are in trouble. Unless we stop abusing our vital life-support systems, they will fail. We must maintain them, or pay the penalty. The penalty is death.

So much is being said, discussed, and written about man ravaging the environment that we start feeling panicky. Though the situation does warrant concern the news is not all bad. There is plenty to cheer about on the environment front.

The ozone layer is on the point of recovery. This success story dates back to 1987, when scientists began to voice their concerns. The world’s governments moved in just nine months to conclude a treaty to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-destroying chemicals. Today almost two decades later the result is encouraging.

However hard the governments try, they can’t wipe out this problem until we the common people do our bit. Some time back the Indian Government had launched a literacy programme called ‘Each One Teach One’. Even then I had liked the idea immensely, though it had failed to take off. I think this campaign should be re-launched - not by any Government but by us, you and me. In whichever part of the world we may be, if we consider ourselves the concerned and committed citizens of the world we should chip in. We should identify the illiterate in our vicinity and teach them the basics of not only  Reading, Writing and Arithmetic but also about Hygiene, Health and the problems which we are facing due to increasing pollution levels.

This might sound simplistic to many of you. But please keep in mind that all great revolutions have begun with a simple step and eventually led to terrific results.

Dr. Radhakrishnan once said, “We have learnt to race in the waters, we have learnt to fly in the air but alas we have not yet learnt to walk on this earth.”

So let us then each one of us take a pledge to protect our greatest friend, Mother Nature, from all harm and reap the benefits she has bestowed on us. Let us learn to walk on the earth creating harmony and togetherness with nature.     

Images under license with Gettyimages.com

17-Dec-2006
 
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