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World Ozone Day and Langban Tarpan

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Munal Meitei

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People belonging to the Meitei community across Manipur and beyond remembered their departed souls of the forefathers and ancestors on the occasion of Langban Heitha-Leitha or Tarpan. On the next day of full moon of Langbantha, the month of September is the startof Tarpan that will last for the next fifteen days when we offer our floral tribute to the forefathers and ancestors. Some may observe in bigger way as ‘Utsav Katpa’ or some as with a little drop of water or a leaf of tulsi but the eternal believes are the same. It is our believed that by offering victuals to the God and the elderly men, the soul and spirit of the departed fore fathers are pleased. If they are pleased and satisfied then they protect their children from the evils and bless them with boons. After achintha, the lean months of June and July are over, the departed souls are always eager to know the live lodes for their children on the earth. It is also our believed that during the Autumnal Equinox, i.e. the season of Tarpan, the sky is very clear and during this time the spirit and souls of the departed ancestors from their heavenly abode can see their descendants on the earth. Thus is the Tarpan of our cultural legacy.

But during this 15 days long celebration, if we could plant a tree each by each family for each of the departed souls every year then that would be the greatest offering. If so, then our state would be with full of trees and everywhere would be only greenery. If so happened, our departed forefathers would also be surely very happy because their descendants would be living in healthy and the economy of the state also would be boosted. It is said when we offer someone with some living statues, then that is the greatest offering.

Today, the 16th September is the World Ozone Day. Like other environmental problems, ozone layer depletion is also considered to be a major environmental issue now. Unfortunately, manufacturing activities since the industrial revolution have caused a disturbance in the atmosphere and opened up ways for more UV rays to penetrate down to the earth’s surface. This has caused a serious consequence and potentially it can get worse if we do not act responsibly.

Due to ozone layer depletion, many unpredicted dreaded challenges have come up to all the biotic forms on the planet. Hence the world has stood up now to count the effects and remedies of ozone layer depletion.  Ozone(O3), discovered by Christian Friedrich, a German chemist in 1840 is very rare in our atmosphere. At an average, in 10 millions of air molecules, there are about two millions of oxygen molecules and only three molecules are of ozone. Though very small in quantity, it plays a vital role in our atmosphere. It is also formed naturally in the atmosphere because of the energy from the Sun and at the time of lightning.

Ozone may be divided into the atmospheric ozone or ground ozone and the stratospheric ozone or Ozone layer. Though the ground ozone is very injurious to health, what we are discussing is the stratospheric ozone.

Stratospheric ozone or ozone layer:- Earth’s atmosphere is divided into several layers. The lower region, known as troposphere extends upto 10 km from surface. Virtually, all the human activities occur in this region. The next layer is stratosphere extending from 10 Km to 50 km. About 90% of the earth’s ozone is found in this region with maximum concentration occurring at the height of about 23.5 Km.  Ozone at this region is formed when oxygen molecules absorbed ultraviolet photon from Sunlight and undergoes photolysis. These ozone molecules absorb ultraviolet rays of wavelength 310-280 nm, also known as UV-B, the most harmful radiation thereby preventing it from entering into the Earth’s surface. But scientist predicted that UV-B radiation intensities are increasing by more than 15% since the 1970s.

Ozone layer depletion:- Ozone layer depletion was first captured the attention of the world in the latter half of 1970 and it was confirmed from the satellite pictures in the mid-1980sduring the Antarctic spring, September to November every year. But now the formations of these ozone holes have spread all over the glove. The cause of this ozone depletion is due to the increase in the level of free radicals of hydroxyl, nitrous oxides and other halocarbons. But the most important compound which shares about 80% of the stratospheric ozone depletion is the Chlorofluorocarbons; CFCs. CFCs are extensively used for Refrigeration, Air-conditioning, and Foam blowing agents, cleaning of the electronic components and as a solvent.

Other hydrocarbon compounds containing chlorine, fluorine and bromine which also causes ozone layer depletion that are coming out mainly from swimming pools, industrial plants, sea salts and volcanoes are easily break down within the troposphere by the natural processes like sunlight, wind and rain etc. But CFCs are so stable that they cannot be broken down easily in the lower atmosphere except only when by exposure to strong ultraviolet ray reaching in the stratosphere. When CFCs break down, free chlorine atoms are released. These chlorine atoms are highly reactivethat a single chlorine atom can destroy as many as 1 million ozone molecules. With this process, the ozone layer in the stratosphere is depleting day by day.

The Effects of Ozone layer depletion:-The affect of ozone layer depletion lies with the harmful effects of ultraviolet ray (UV-ray). The Sun is UV- ray discovered by Johann Wilhelm Ritter, a German physicist during 1972. The source of almost all these UV-rays is from the Sun. Ozone layer acts as a blanket by absorbing these harmful UV-rays and they do not allow most of them to reach the earth’s surface. Exposure to higher amounts of UV radiation could have serious impacts on humans, animals and plants. The challenges to human health include skin cancers, sunburns and premature aging of the skin, more cataracts, blindness and other eye diseases. Experts say, if not check the problem of ozone layer depletion, 20% of the world population may suffer from skin cancer in the next 50 years. White people have a 70 times greater incidence than Black people and a 10 times greater incidence than Latin and Asian peoples. UV radiation can damage several parts of the eye, including the lens, cornea, retina and conjunctiva. Cataracts cause 50% of the 17 million blindness in the world. A sustained 10% thinning of the ozone layer is expected to result in almost two million new cases of cataract every year. Ozone layer depletion and weakness in immune suppression in all the biotic forms is a hot issue of the present day.

Ozone layer depletion has also adverse impacts on agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems. It can affect the important food crops by adversely effecting Cynobacteria which helps them to absorb and utilize nitrogen properly. World’s major crop species are particularly vulnerable to increase in UV radiation, resulting in reduced growth, size, photosynthesis and flowering time. These species include wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn, soybeans, peas, tomatoes and almost all staple and cash crops. Small changes in leaf size may increase the ability of weeds to grow around some crops. Small changes in pollination time, resistance to insects or disease, or in the length of the growing season, could cause large changes in yield. The most likely thing to happen will be a change in the relative population of various unwanted species (Runeckles and Krupa, 1994).It is really a challenge to our human food security.

Phytoplankton, an important component of marine food chain can also be affected by ozone layer depletion. These tiny photosynthesizing plants provide 50 percent of all the oxygen available on the Earth but UV-B ray causes genetic damages to these organisms. Coral Reefs that mankind termed them as the tropical forest of the ocean are also most affected by ozone layer depletion. Due to increase in UV-ray, our global biodiversity as a whole is intensively damaged thereby affecting all life forms.

UV-rays overexposure may cause eye and skin cancers to animals. But animals with fur are somewhat saved from UV-radiation. Species of marine animals in their developmental stage e.g. young fish, shrimp larvae and crab larvae are also widely threatened in recent years by the increased UV radiation under the Antarctic ozone hole. 

Materials such as wood, plastic, rubber, fabrics, paints and many construction materials are degraded by UV radiation. The economic impact of ozone depletion on replacing and protecting materials could be significant.

Conclusion:-The increasing concern over the causes and the effects of ozone layer depletion led to the observation of the “World Ozone Day” every year.It is an undisputed fact that if we stop use and the production of CFCs right now, then also, its problem will persist on the earth for the next one hundred years. But to reduce and control of the Industrial emission of CFCs, many countries have eventually agreed to discontinue the production of CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform etc. except for a few specific proposes. Now the industries also have started to develop with more ozone friendly substitutes. For the peoples of north eastern India including our state Manipur who are dwelling in the higher altitude and also nearer to the geographical tropic have the more vulnerability to the harmful effects of ozone layer depletion. As a part of observation of World Ozone Day, every one of us needs to take care of our Environment and the ozone layer right from this moment onwards. Therefore, as we are remembering our departed souls by observing the Tarpan during this Langbantha, if we again observe this day in a more meaningful way, then we can do something better for the future generation to hand over them with a clean and beautiful environment.

Pic Courtesy: Un.org

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