Indigenous effort bears fruit

INDIA'S commitment to phasing out ozone-depleting substances received a fillip when scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology in Hyderabad developed a process to manufacture HFC-134a, an ozone-friendly refrigerant. HFC-134a will be a substitute for CFC-12, which accounts for more than 50 per cent of the harmful CFCs being phased out worldwide. HFC-134a does not release any chlorine atoms that damage the ozone layer.

The indigenous ability to manufacture HFC-134a indigenously will help India's phase-out schedule considerably. The three international chemical giants that have developed ozone-friendly substitutes -- Hoechst of Germany and DuPont and Dow Chemicals of USA -- prefer to sell developing countries finished products rather than transfer their manufacturing technology.

IICT director A V Rama Rao says, "Within a year we can produce HFC-134a at pilot plant level." Government and industrial agencies have already placed orders worth Rs 1 crore with IICT. A prototype plant is being set up at a cost of Rs 6 crore and commercial production is expected to begin by 1996.