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Council’s innovative tree planting scheme aims to cut air pollution

06 February 2018

Derry City and Strabane District Council, in partnership with the Public Health Agency and the North West Regional College, have launched a unique tree planting scheme to mark the registration of significant life events in the Council area.

The Life Tree Project will see every birth, death and marriage registered in Council’s District Registration Offices in Derry and Strabane marked by the planting of a native tree sapling as part of a wider strategy to improve air quality and the public’s mental health.

Registering families are encouraged to plant the tree at their own property but if they don’t have a suitable location, Council will identify alternative sites in its parks and green spaces and plant the tree for them.

Design students at the North West Regional College (NWRC) have had a central role in the development of the initiative which is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and will see around 4,000 new trees planted in the City and District each year.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, launched the scheme at the NWRC Strand Road Campus this week with the planting of a tree and he highlighted its multiple benefits for both the health of the public and the local environment.

“I am delighted that Council, along with its partners in the Public Health Agency and the North West Regional College are leading the way with this novel initiative which is a poignant means of marking and remembering the registrations of birth, deaths and marriages in our City and District,” he said.
“According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution is a major contributor to diseases such as lung and respiratory infections, heart disease, and cancer, there is therefore a responsibility on all of us to make a conscious effort to protect our environment and improve air quality.

“Planting trees can not only decrease air pollution but it improves both the urban and rural landscape and encourages the public to experience the outdoors and the associated health benefits so I am pleased that we are the first Council in the North to introduce this scheme.

“On behalf of Council I would like to thank the PHA for the funding to make this project possible and acknowledge the key role the students and staff at the NWRC have had in working with Council to bring it to fruition.”

As well as issuing the new trees, the Public Health Agency will issue relevant health literature relating to each registration such as breast feeding information for birth registrations.

The PHA’s Brendan Bonner noted that air pollution reduction has the potential to be life saving for the local community.

“The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2012, one out of every nine deaths resulted from air pollution related conditions making it the largest environmental risk factor for ill health,” he said.
“Reducing air pollution by planting more trees has the potential to decrease respiratory and heart conditions and illnesses and improve the Health and Well Being of the population in the Derry and Strabane areas.

“Air pollution impacts on all regions, settings and age groups and while we all breath the same air, there are significant geographical differences to exposure to air pollution and it is important that we do all we can to improve and protect our air quality locally.

“This project matches up particularly well with our Take 5 Steps of Wellbeing initiative where we are encouraging the public to connect with each other, be active, take notice of the beauty around you, keep learning and to do something that helps other people.”   

HND Interactive Media students from the North West Regional College have been working with Council’s Marketing team to design the brand logo, marketing materials and website for the scheme and Annette Smith from the College said they were pleased to play such an active role in the initiative.
“This has been a thoroughly enriching experience for our students to apply their skills to a live project and it is a proud moment for them to see the scheme go live.

“The students have been particularly involved in the marketing element of the scheme and have developed a website that will allow the public to register the location of their trees which in turn will help Council identify areas where more or less should be planted.

“The project has the potential to significantly increase the number of new trees planted in the City and District and leave a lasting memory for families from key life events.”

Further information on the Life Tree Project is available through the Environmental Health Department of Derry City and Strabane District Council by calling 028 71 253253 or e mailing [email protected].

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