Ozone Blog

A blog written by Rajendra Shende, Former Head of the OzonAction Branch, in his personal capacity. This blog does not reflect the policy or position of UNEP or the DTIE OzonAction Branch.
Author: ozonAction Created: 1/3/2011
Ozone Blog
By ozonAction on 10/16/2007
The clinking of wine glasses followed by 'cheers' were as omnipresent in Montreal during the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol as the speeches extolled the virtues and lessons learnt from this global treaty.

As I returned to my hotel after one of the many receptions I decided to take a walk to the 'Parc de Prince' one of my favorite places in Montreal. Wine makes people talk, it makes me walk! The Parc de Prince is at the bottom of 'Mont Real' the historic landmark hill in Montreal. I had been to Montreal many times before and was immediately 'time-machined' into nostalgia. This nostalgia was about wine, grapes and the process of fermentation that I learnt during my years of chemical engineering!

I prefer the science of wine making more than wine itself. Fermentation is a natural process during which sugar is transformed into alcohol by using energy from nature with natural enzymes acting as catalysts. A perfect example of sustainable or 'green' chemistry. Is there any other chemical process that has done so much for the well-being of humankind? For example, the manufacture of penicillin is a classical fermentation process which changed the health of people.

While I was walking past the maple trees, I recalled...
By ozonAction on 8/28/2007
4-day traffic trial in the city of Beijing was probably the biggest ever trial to ensure clean air during the next year's 2008 Olympics. On one of those days, I arrived in Beijing; cars with number plates ending with odd numbers were banned from the roads. I could reach my hotel from the airport in no time, as nearly 50 % of Beijing's 3 million cars were off the roads. The taxi driver looked happy, as there were no traffic jams. Even the airport expressway looked more beautiful with thick trees on both sides, which about a decade ago looked so thin and sparse. The Chinese government has taken air pollution seriously, especially in view of the 29th Summer Olympics that will take place exactly one year from now.

I was in Beijing to give an opening presentation at the International Congress of Refrigeration. But I took the opportunity to meet with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee at its multi-storied headquarters. This was my third visit to the Beijing Organizing Committee...
By ozonAction on 8/3/2007
Science-driven policy making requires that legislators fully understand science. My many years of experience with bureaucrats have shown that there is a need to de-mystify science and explain the intricacies in a simple language. One of my numerous encounters during international meetings resulted in the following questions from a top-level bureaucrat: "Mr Shende, this is all fine. But how do you explain the science of ozone depletion to a mother?"

I presumed that he believed that mothers do not understand the intricacies of science unless explained in household terms. I, of course, disagreed with his assumption, but decided to take up a challenge. I developed the following dialogue between a mother and a school going child and gave to him in the next 45 minutes.

Mother: What is this ozone layer? I only know about 'chocolate layers' in the cakes I make.

Child: Mother, you do make extremely tasty chocolate layer cakes. But "Mother Earth" has made another kind of layer called the "ozone layer" - about 20-40 km above the earth! It is certainly not as thick as a chocolate layer! In fact it is very thin. Out of 1 million air molecules, less than 10...
By ozonAction on 7/23/2007
Ulaan Baator is the coldest capital in the world and also the capital with the longest winter. Temperatures can go up to minus 60 degree Celcius and winter lasts for nearly 9 months ending in May.

I was taking my early morning brisk walk by exploring the surroundings of the Erktet Suld Gher Camp, about 25 km outside of Ulaan Baator. It was the venue for a UNEP workshop organised by the Compliance Assistance Programme of our Bangkok office. A very innovative venue indeed! We stayed in Mongolian ghers (round shaped rooms assembled and dissembled by nomads in Mongolia) - a point of departure from the usual hotel conference rooms!

End of June, traversing the steppe, amidst the bare hills is a unique experience. A vast green pasture, blue sky, a slow wind blowing across the hills made my walk a true dream walk.

Walking along a small track, I noticed something which I had never seen before. It was a marmot hurrying...
By ozonAction on 7/9/2007
As we approached the city of Changshu, a two hour drive from Shanghai, I could see along the way the economic growth driven by the 'opening up of the Chinese economy'. On either side of the expressway I could see massive construction activities with a maze of overbridges, skyscrapers and sprawling housing complexes. A giant dragon was not only awakening but now wide awake.

Over the last two decades, the world has been celebrating opening of markets and borders. Every week China celebrates the opening of one or two large power plants to ensure a steady supply of electricity to its economy. What an unprecedented growth.

But I was in the city of Changshu to celebrate the closure of a business! Now this fact would invite many questions. A United Nations representative in China to celebrate the closure of a business? And at the invitation of the Chinese Government? It sounds like 'Alter movement' or 'Anti Globalization campaign' which aims at anti-business slogans!

Interestingly, the closure was for opening...
By ozonAction on 6/22/2007
On my flight from Delhi to Thimphu I was looking down at the rugged panoramic view of sheer majestic beauty. The gigantic wall of the Himalayas painted with summits and glaciers drive you to meditate. It leaves one dumbstruck with a thought that nature can be so attractive yet fearful at the same time. It is one of the incredible sites on earth that makes one humble and contemplative. As we pass the peaks of Annapurna and Everest the plane slowly descends into the Paro valley in Bhutan.

As we descend, am astonished by the appearance of the houses around the valley, so I ask a Bhutanese sitting next to me. "Why are the house-tops painted in red?". "Those are not painted roofs, those are the famous red chillies of Bhutan - Dalla - spread over the roofs and being sun dried - natural drying!" the Bhutanese replies. I could see the houses scattered on the slopes of the hills all drying chillies in the sun. I remembered that natural drying keeps vitamins and flavours intact. Entering Bhutan is like entering the Kingdom...
By ozonAction on 4/12/2007
A flight lands smoothly from about 10-11 kms above the earth. That high level blue experience comes to an end with a light thud as the aircraft touches the ground. The blue sky color slowly vanishes as the earthly colors dominate - the grey and black runway, the white airport building and the Eastman color huge bill boards that welcome the travelers in the country. And then as one exits, there appears those red and green signs monitored by the customs officers: 'Nothing to Declare' the green zone and the forbidding red zone. Those cold, penetrating eyes of the customs officers cause butterflies in your stomach. You have to be ready to open your bags, to show your favorite alcoholic drinks that you recently purchased or the electronic gadget that you wrapped in your clothes, and then respond to the customs officer, which almost feels like a prosecutor firing questions at you in the witness box. And if you are unfortunately called aside to open your bags, you have no choice ...
By ozonAction on 2/28/2007
If the present generation has to write the history of the future, such an exercise could be termed as, for want of better words, digging up the past or peering into a crystal ball. I strongly felt such a need when I was in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, just a few days back. Eighty percent of Turkmenistan is desert and nothing grows there. But ideas and concepts, visions and the dreams that grow there are plentiful.

I was in Ashgabat to participate in the 6th Regional Network Meeting of National Ozone Units of 11 countries in the Europe and Central Asia region. The year 2007 being the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, the Network meeting was launched with much fanfare, with amazing performances by an orchestra of students dressed in traditionally colorful costumes that include the Turkmen cap placed on the top back of the head. As part of the programme, the participants visited the adjacent National Museum of Turkmenistan. One of the objects in the museum that attracted my attention ...
By ozonAction on 2/16/2007
About a week ago, I was in a taxi headed for The Hague train station to catch the Thalys that would take me back to Paris. The overcast sky with intermittent drizzles reminded me of Parisian weather. Just a few hours back, The Hague had experienced its first snow fall of the winter. The taxi driver, from Suriname, talked about 'climate change' and made Dutch monologues, which seemed to signal that he was not sure of what is happening. I had spent most of that day discussing that same subject in a different context with an informal group of experts from around the world called the 'Stockholm Group.' The context of that meeting was , among other things, relation between the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols.

While waiting for my train, I settled in one of those station cafes. To kill time, I opened my laptop and googled 'Montreal Protocol' and got about 1.04 million references. Then I googled the much talked-about 'Kyoto Protocol' and not surprisingly I got about 1.2 million references. Out of inquisitiveness I decided ...
By ozonAction on 2/2/2007
Being aware is to be conscious, to be conversant and to be mindful. Awareness is the state of mind that makes us think. Initially while working on awareness activity programmes in the United Nations, I considered that the tools for making civil society aware of environmental issues are posters, labels, booklets, web sites, guidebooks, workshops and meetings. 12 years back, the former Environment Minister of China, Mr. Xie Zhenhua, and the former Director General of China's State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and I used a different mechanism to create awareness among the citizens of Beijing. This mechanism demonstrated the long term impacts. It clearly illustrated the point that it is not the tools that create the awareness but the way those tools reach out to society and the way the messages are communicated and understood by the recipients ....
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