Belfast Telegraph

Study explores tree scheme to cut pollution levels in Belfast

A report will examine locations of heavy air pollution across Belfast where trees can be planted. (John Giles/PA)
A report will examine locations of heavy air pollution across Belfast where trees can be planted. (John Giles/PA)

By Michael Kenwood

A report will examine locations of heavy air pollution across Belfast where trees can be planted.

Belfast City councillors agreed to the production of a study identifying sites that are heavily polluted, and exploring the costs of buying trees.

The City Tree Initiative will also examine the potential public-private partnership of advertising space around the trees which could be used to offset the cost of the purchase.

The matter was discussed at a recent Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

The new motion says the council "acknowledges that there are several sites across Belfast that breach current legal guidelines in terms of air pollutants.

"Air pollution is often hidden in plain sight, but it can have potentially life-threatening consequences.

"Exposure to high levels of air pollution can lead to chronic respiratory problems and increased risk of developing cancer.

"Having access to clean air is a human right.

"To reduce levels of air pollution, we need to reduce our reliance on carbon as well as finding innovative solutions to air pollution."

The City Tree Initiative has been adopted by many European cities including Amsterdam, Brussels and London.

Each of the trees holds 1,682 pots of moss, which extract particulate matter, soot, dirt and other pollutants from the air.

Earlier this year the council revealed ambitious plans to plant over one million trees in the next 15 years.

Councillor Mal O'Hara, of the Green Party, said: "I'm delighted other people are taking forward policy solutions to address air pollution.

"For us it is transformative for the city, it is a fantastic policy solution, and I look forward to the report to see where we can site these, if we decide to purchase them.

"It ties into a lot of other narratives that I think has a consensus across this council - more trees across the city, better green planning, expansion of our green and blue spaces, pedestrianisation, sustainable transport, clean air zones, and banning the burning of certain fuels."

The presence of trees in urban areas is known to have a positive effect on human health, by reducing levels of stress, preventing obesity, and accelerating recovery from illnesses.

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