14/12/2018

Green Party Calls For Urgent Action To Address Air Pollution Crisis

The Green Party has called for emergency action to address air pollution in Northern Ireland, after a government report highlighted that certain areas with high levels of nitrogen dioxide are in breach of industry standards.

The levels exceeded the guidance of the Air Quality Standards (AQS) at the Belfast, Downpatrick and Dungiven testing sites, which are all located in close proximity to busy roads, including Belfast's Stockman's Lane.

Claire Bailey MLA emphasised the seriousness of the issue, following the report by the Department of Environment, as published on Thursday 13 December.

She said: "Everyone has the right to breathe clean, fresh air. The effects of dirty air cause most damage to the health of our most vulnerable – young children, older people and those with pre existing health conditions.

"We know that on average, 550 people in Northern Ireland die from respiratory conditions linked to air pollution each year. The worrying levels of nitrogen dioxide at these monitoring sites show the scale of the air pollution problem."
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The Green Party leader added: "The Belfast testing site is at Stockman's Lane which I know well as a South Belfast MLA. It's of no surprise that this busy route is an air pollution hot spot. A huge volume of cars and lorries use this road to come into and out of the city.

"We need urgent action to tackle air pollution through the provision of sustainable public transport and the promotion of active travel."

The report did highlight that Northern Ireland's air quality had improved significantly in recent decades, particularly in relation to the concentration of sulphur dioxide, which is a pollutant associated with coal and oil combustion.

The use of that particular substance has declined considerably over the past 20 years.

The new Rapid Transit system running from east to west Belfast, the Regional Strategic plan for Network Transport and the Active School programme for travel in Northern Ireland, which promotes cycling and walking to school, are all initiatives which are expected to reduce the levels of air pollution in the coming years.

Despite such developments, the problem is continuing to grow in the region, according to Mrs Bailey.

"This report shows that the air pollution problem persists across Northern Ireland. Citizens have a right to breathe clean, fresh air and be empowered to make sustainable and active travel choices.

"Green politicians in Government at all levels can grasp the mettle, taking the urgent action needed to address the air pollution problem across our towns and cities."



(JG)

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