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Customs officials familarised on ozone depleting substances

Bhutan is in compliance with the Montreal Protocol with its import of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) 22 being lesser than the country’s quota of 3.64 Metric Tonnes (MT) this year, Ozone Project Manager with the National Environment Commission (NEC), Tshewang Zangmo said.

This was shared to more than 30 customs officials from six regional offices at the two-day annual training programme on the Montreal Protocol Enforcement in Thimphu. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer came into effect in 1987, to protect human health and the environment through the control of consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).  Bhutan acceded to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone layer and Montreal on Substances that deplete the ozone layer and its four amendments in 2004.

Senior Regional Coordinator with UN Environment, Asia Pacific Office, Atul Bagai, said scientific projections show that the ozone layer would return to its 1980 levels by 2060, as the ODSs in the atmosphere have been reduced. “99 percent of ODSs are phased out, and 98 Percent of controlled uses are replaced with more effective and safer alternatives for ozone layer.”

Bhutan has phased out Chlorofluorocarbons in 2010 and is currently working towards phasing out HCFC 22 by 2025.

Tshewang Zangmo, said that HCFC phase out management plan initiated in 2012 bans HCFC 22 equipment such as HCFC-based refrigerators, air conditioners, and fire extinguishers. However, certain amount of the gas is allowed for import with permit from NEC. This year, the maximum quantity of HCFC that is allowed for import is 3.64 MT. As per the HCFC phase out schedule, this is a 35 percent reduction of the baseline 5.6 MT.

She said that a quota system is put in place to limit the supply of HCFC where only those who have registered with NEC are allowed to import the gas. “When they come and register with us, they also have to fill out the amount of gas they require the following year.”

To reduce the demand of HCFCs for servicing existing equipment, NEC collaborates with labour ministry to provide annual trainings to technicians and technical institutes on management and maintenance of ODS equipment.

To limit new demand of HCFCs in Bhutan, ODS equipment have also been banned since 2008.

She said that since there are no destruction or recovery facilities for the gases, it has to be returned to the exporter. “As per the Revised Regulation on ODS 2008, if someone brings in ODS equipment, they have to take it back to the exporter and bear the cost of transportation, including those of the customs officer who accompanies them.”

The training is organised to educate and familarise customs officials on the roles and responsibilities of enforcement agencies in the enforcement of the Montreal Protocol.

A press release from NEC states that the training is part of the ongoing support and initiative from UN Environment Programme and National Ozone Office, NEC in fulfilling Bhutan’s commitments towards accelerated phase out of ODS by 2025 as compared to 2040 by the rest of the world.

Chief Commissioners of Goods and Services Tax, and Customs, India, WL Hangshing, said the trainings are important, as many officials may not be aware of the criticality and importance of ozone depletion. “The training sharpens their skills when they are at the border and helps them to identify substances and goods, and in what form they come.”

Atul Bagai urged participants not to think of lowering the ozone depletion and climate change impacts as a responsibility of the manufacturer, international agencies, or the government, but to help as citizens.  “You can help by choosing the right equipment when you are setting up your house such as using aerosol, insulating your house, buying refrigerator and foams which are ozone and climate friendly.”

Karma Cheki 

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