'Clean Air Day' will ask us all to leave the car at home

Mon, 03/06/2019 - 10:21 -- Editor

The public are being encouraged to get involved in Clean Air Day on Thursday June 20th by finding out more about air pollution, sharing information with colleagues, schools and communities and helping make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Michaela Boyle, urged people to use the day to learn more about how their actions can have an impact on air pollution levels.     

“Air pollution is real and harms the health of millions,” she noted. “There are lots of simple things we can do to improve air quality and look after our own and other people’s health.

“Air pollution affects your health from your first breath to your last, as the damage to our health can start when we’re a baby and carry on through into old age.

“The good news is that air pollution is solvable and there are simple steps we can all take to help avoid toxic air and cut down on the pollution we emit – it’s good for us and good for the planet too.”

Public Health England have estimated that 28,000 – 36,000 deaths a year are attributed to long-term exposure to polluted air.

Clean Air Day is a national campaign under way throughout the UK with 200 local authorities, NHS trusts, health charities, universities and community groups running events and communications to encourage as many people as possible to do something different to reduce air pollution.

Positive actions include using the car less or driving more effectively to reduce emissions, switching to electric cars, taking public transport, walking or cycling where possible and being mindful of reducing pollution levels by using smokeless fuels and approved appliances if using a coal or wood fire at home.

Our Council’s story of improving air quality includes Route Optimisation, to develop, implement, co-ordinate and maintain a software-based routing system for frontline services across the organisation to ensure optimised waste collection, street cleansing and grounds maintenance services.

This project will enhance the management and increase the efficiency of routes within these services leading to an ongoing improvement in operational performance which will ultimately produce financial savings in fuel and a reduction in the overall carbon footprint.

Derry City and Strabane’s Green Infrastructure Plan 2019-2032 aims to reduce the impact of air pollution.

Christine Doherty, Derry City and Strabane District Council’s lead officer for Green Infrastructure stated: “Vegetation can remove air pollutants and control their flow and distribution.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ intervention but the right green infrastructure in the right place can reduce exposure to air pollution, reducing the use of vehicles is key and green infrastructure has a role to play in incentivising ‘active travel’ (walking and cycling) through the creation of attractive ‘green corridors’ and networks of green space.

“Council’s Air Quality Action Plan is currently being updated to include measures aimed at reducing pollution levels from traffic sources at the four Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA’s) in Derry.” 

Council is working with strategic partners in DAERA, the Public Health Agency, Sustrans and DfI Roads Service to undertake activities on the day.

They include Clean Air Day activities with eight primary schools in Derry and Strabane, information stands in the Alley Centre, Strabane and Brooke Park, Derry, walk to work on the day by Council staff, active travel activities and erection of temporary signage at traffic pollution hotspots encouraging drivers to “Switch off Engines where possible” when stationary at traffic lights.

Oak saplings are also being distributed, as part of the Life Project to participating schools to encourage the planting of trees which also helps improve air quality by reducing pollution levels.

This is the first year Council has undertaken this event and will build on the success of the day in subsequent Clean Air Days in future years to get the important message across that we can all help improve air quality and health by taking individual measures that will collectively make a difference.