As ??Barbados prepares to join its counterparts?? around ??the ??globe ??in observing ??International Day for the Preservation of?? the Ozone Layer tomorrow,?? under?? the theme: "Ozone Layer Protection: Governance and Compliance at their Best", it?? does so?? reassured?? in the knowledge?? that?? the Ozone Layer is "slowly recovering" .

Word of this has come from officials of the Ministry of the Environment’s National Ozone Unit (NOU), who have credited this to worldwide efforts to reduce the production and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).

??In this vein, the NOU has successfully spearheaded a National ODS Management Programmes since 1994, thus fulfilling Barbados’ obligations under the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol.

According to Assistant National Ozone Officer, Shontelle Wellington, ODS?? are chemical substances?? that contain chlorine, fluorine and, or bromide,?? for example chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs) and Methylbromide (MeBr), which are capable of reacting with, and destroying the Ozone?? Layer.

Traditionally used in vehicle air-conditioning units; refrigerators; freezers; dehumidifiers, cleaning solvents and pesticides among other household items, these substances can pose hazards to human health, with effects of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, ranging from skin cancer, to premature ageing and cataracts.

They also have negative effects on plants, including causing DNA changes; on marine ecosystems, in terms of damage to the early developmental stages of fish, shrimp and crab; on Biogeochemical Cycles, namely effecting terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles and on materials.

Barbados is one of 190 countries party to the Montreal Protocol, deemed the most successful environmental Treaty to date. Developed under the Vienna Convention, it was designed to identify and monitor production and consumption levels of ODS, as well as develop practical phase-out schedules for global compliance by its members.

According to Ms. Wellington, chemicals relevant to Barbados include CFCs – used in refrigerants, propellants for spray cans and inhalers; Halons – used in fire extinguishers; HCFCs – used in refrigerants and MeBr – fumigant used in pest control.

In an effort to foster compliance, the NOU has embarked on a two-pronged programme, which entails Institutional Strengthening and Refrigerant Management components.

According to NOU, Project Manager, Rickardo Ward, the department, through its Refrigerant Management Plan, has since 2006 embarked on a training programme for Customs Officers, to better equip them to detect the importation of ODS in the form of refrigerant gases by some retailers. Additional training is expected to commence before year-end.

The Unit has also been instrumental in facilitating the establishment of the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Association of Barbados, as well as the Hydrochloroflurocarbon (HCFC) Phase Out Management Plan (HPMP).

Mr. Ward?? has also cited the successful phase out of the use of CFCs and achieving?? and maintaining zero per cent?? consumption of CFCs as of 2009?? and the enactment of The Customs (List of Prohibited and Restricted Imports and Exports) Order 2009, which gives effect to the National Import/Export Licensing System, as among the department’s most?? recent successes.

In fact, the NOU official dubbed Barbados’ successes as "phenomenal" given that they were achieved solely on a voluntary basis.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, in his message to mark International Ozone Day, described the Montreal Protocol, which last year received universal ratification, as an "excellent example" of the central role of good governance in pursuit of environmental goals.

He, therefore, urged Governments to "use the governance tools contained in the existing ozone and climate change treaties to reduce environmental threats to sustainable development and human well-being."??

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