Zimbabwe Commemorates World Ozone Day Under A Dark Cloud

Zimbabwe yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer (World Ozone Day) despite an apparently slow-paced approach towards phasing out of ozone-depleting substances.

The day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 in a bid to encourage all nations across the globe to reflect and take action against the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer.

Loosely defined, the ozone layer is a fragile earth’s coating which acts as shield to protect life on this planet from dangerous Ultra-Violet radiation from the sun and is vulnerable to carbon-emitting substances chief among them the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural).

While its depletion can cause eye cataracts, skin cancers and suppress the immune system in human beings, it induces droughts, floods and tropical cyclones that manifest through climate change, an immediate creation of ozone exhaustion.

However, despite being a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, which was signed on the 16th of September 1987, the government of Zimbabwe was involved in a row last week after parcelling out two coal-mining concessions within Hwange National Park.

The decision was later reversed but, commenting on the developments, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development researcher Tapuwa Nhachi bemoaned the environmental chaos brought by such skewed policies that contradict the country’s commitment to international agreements.

“Choosing coal exploration and mining over tourism presents the misplaced priorities by the Zimbabwean government as this goes against the Renewable Energy policy, the climate change response strategy as well as the Paris Agreement which we ratified,” he said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s 2000 tonnes donation of coal to five hospitals in the Matabeleland region last month also stands as one of many instances government has proved its dishonesty towards a zero-carbon goal.

However, in an ironic statement to mark the day themed “Ozone for life: 35 years of ozone layer protection”, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said his ministry is training customs officers to curb continued trade of phased out ozone-depleting substances.

“As we phase out the remaining Ozone Depleting Substances and introduce the ozone and climate-friendly ones, illegal trade in phased out substances has increased across the globe.  There is, therefore, need to train Customs Officers and equip them with skills, knowledge and tools to outwit these illegal Ozone Depleting Substances traders,” said Ndlovu, adding:

“Zimbabwe is no exception to these smuggling schemes. My Ministry is working with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to train Customs Officers and equip them with tools and skills to combat illegal trade in Ozone Depleting Substances.”

It remains to be seen whether the government will take a firmer stance towards enforcing ozone-friendly policies at a time the contributions of each country, no matter the scale, are needed to ensure atmospheric temperatures do not rise beyond habitable levels.

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