ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Environment Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi Friday stressed the need for collective efforts for the protection of Ozone layer. He was addressing a seminar on '20 years of the historic Montreal Protocol' here at a local hotel. Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Ishtiak Ahmad, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP, Arif Allauddin and Country Representative, UNIDO, Ms Shadia Yousif Bakhait also spoke on the occasion. Afridi said depletion of the ozone layer was a matter of serious concern for the entire world because of its potential threats to the sustained life on earth. He said government was making all-out efforts to address the challenges of environmental degradation, however, it was unable to accomplish the task without active participation of the general public and other stakeholders. The environmental problems were not confined only to the countries primarily responsible for its degradation, but their effects were far-reaching as they transcended all borders without any discrimination between the developed and the developing world, the minister maintained. He expressed his satisfaction over the fact that parties to the Montreal Protocol had collectively phased out 95 per cent of ozone depleting substances the world over and expected the remaining 5 per cent to be phased out by January 1, 2010, the deadline under the provision of the Protocol. Speaking on the occasion, Arif Allaudin appreciated efforts of the Ministry of Environment in phasing out Ozone depleting substances and mitigating the effects of ozone depletion. He assured UNDP's full support to the government of Pakistan in combating environmental challenges and congratulated on signing of the extension of Montreal Protocol Project for the next phase. Ms Shadia Yousif Bakhait hailed efforts made by government of Pakistan for phasing out consumption of ozone depleting substances in the country.   Ozone (O3) is an invisible and transparent gaseous substance that forms a layer some 15-55 kilometers above the earth surface, which absorbs Ultraviolet-B part of the radiations coming from the sun. UV-B radiations are much hazardous for life on earth and cause serious health and environmental risks including skin cancer, increased earth temperatures and harmful efforts on agricultural production. From the past few decades, Ozone layer is facing serious dangers because of certain human activities, among which the extensive use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is said to be the major cause. It is pertinent to mention here that currently 66,000 deaths have been estimated annually from skin cancer.  Every year, around 130,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed.  Children are at particular risk from the conditions related to over-exposure to UV-B radiation. Furthermore, recent scientific research also indicates that UV-B radiations are much more damaging to the eye and vision than were suspected earlier.  Globally, in 2006, more than 161 million people were visually impaired, of whom, 124 million had low vision and 37 million were blind - with cataract as major cause In view of the serious threats posed by Ozone depletion to the life on earth, 191 countries of the world joined together by signing the Montreal Protocol. Under provisions of the protocol, these countries agreed to phase out Ozone depleting substances by the year 2010. Pakistan signed the Protocol in 1992 and made significant contribution in the international efforts to make the world ozone-friendly. It is pertinent to mention here that United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has awarded Montreal Protocol Certificate for recognition of the efforts made by government of Pakistan and National Ozone Office for the protection of ozone layer.