Urban trees – an air pollution solution?

Central_parkImage: Unsplash, Pixabay.com

One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day – November 3rd 2016

November 3rd 2016 will be host to the first ever One Health Day, an international campaign that aims to bring attention to how planetary health challenges are addressed.  It may not be obvious, but public health and the environment are inextricably interlinked.  The physical environment, which includes housing, sanitation, drinking water and air, has significant effects on human health and well-being.  Therefore, effective management of the environment is important, so that potential health issues can be avoided.  With this in mind, the focus of this blog is urban air pollution, its impact on health, and how trees could help improve the air quality in towns and cities.

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Air pollution, can we reduce the impact of cars on urban air quality?

Air pollution in Delhi

Air pollution in Delhi

In January 2016, Delhi, India, improved air quality on its streets when it conducted a 2-week air pollution reduction experiment, with private cars allowed on the streets only on alternate days, depending on license plate numbers.   The idea is not new and has been tried elsewhere (Paris and Rome) but I guess its novelty (“who’d have thought” brigade) to the USA explained why it made The New York Times!

Last year, it was all headlines about Bejing [China] and the air quality citizens had to deal with. However it would seem that actually Beijing’s levels of PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in size), a measure of air quality, decreased by 40% from 2000 to 2013, whereas Delhi's PM10 levels have increased 47% from 2000 to 2011.

Delhi's PM10 levels are nearly twice as much as in Beijing, and it has the worst PM 2.5 levels of 1600 cities in the world. Thus the need for the license plate experiment. In a BBC article, you can read more about the reasons “Why Delhi is losing its clean air war” and discover the varied & innovative measures China has taken to ameliorate motor car use.

No doubt spurred on by Delhi’s experiment, a health journalist in Bangladesh alerted the HIFA forum to the equally bad situation in India’s neighbour, Bangladesh.

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