Published: Sunday 30 April 2000

The deadline for completing the tasks laid down by the Montreal Protocol is fast approaching, but India seems to be nowhere near to fulfilling its obligations, warn experts.

Under the international treaty signed in 1987, India is supposed to phase out Ozone-depleting substances (ODS) like chlorofluoro carbons (CFCs) by January 1, 2003. But refrigerator manufacturers who use CFCs as a coolant is yet to switch over to more eco-friendly substances.

Besides CFCs, the refrigerator industry also makes use of hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) for cooling and insulation. While CFCs cause damage to the ozone layer in the Earth's atmosphere, HFCs are green house gases (GHGs) and are responsible for global warming and climate change.

Nations who had signed the Montreal Protocol had agreed to phase out ODS only if HFCs were used as substitutes. But the 1997 Kyoto Protocol called for reduction in the emission of six GHGs -- carbon dioxide, methane, perfluorocarbons, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride and HFCs.

This poses a problem for the developed countries who had in the past decade made a substantial investment to switch over from CFCs to HFCs. In the process, today they are manufacturing more environment-friendly refrigerators. On the other hand, they may not be inclined to make fresh investments for a new technology that meets the directives of both the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols. Meanwhile, Europe has already moved on to the even better hydro carbons (HCs), the current substitute for ODS.

In sharp contrast, Indian manufacturers to date have failed to even opt for the HFC-based ecofrig. "Government has not been proactive on the technology shift issue," feels the Jaipur-based non-government organisation (NGO) Consumer Unity and Trust Society.

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