A patch of green in any city is a welcome sight. Not just for the eyes, but even for the lungs. Adding to that if the tree is endemic to the country then it aids in reducing air pollution at a faster rate. The next time you think of planting a tree it could not just be for its aesthetic value or economic benefit but even for the city in general.
According to a recent study published in the journal ‘Current Science’, certain trees and crops which are endemic to India can help lower the impact of air pollution by absorbing and filtering pollutants. Trees such as peepal, neem, mango and crops like maize, pigeon pea and safflower are best suited for areas with higher levels of air pollution. During a study conducted in Patna, Bihar, it was found that these trees had the highest values for the air pollution tolerance index (APTI). The APTI and anticipated performance index are tools that assess the capacity of tree and crop species to tolerate air pollution.
Although trees are generally effective in reducing air pollution, having more trees in urban areas does not necessarily improve the air quality. Certain trees are significantly more efficient in filtering pollutants from the air than others. To maximise the impact on air quality in a street or city, it is crucial to have the right tree for the job.
As many as 19 tree and crop species that are most common in the Eastern region of the country were studied by researchers from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and used to assess the impact of air pollutants on the biochemical parameters. “In the current Indian scenario, where increasing air pollution is a serious concern, the conscious selection of less susceptible trees and crops towards air pollution would be an eco-friendly management strategy. Such species also serve to lower and remove pollutants from the atmosphere,” the study noted.
Air pollution is the world’s leading environmental cause of illness and premature death. India has consistently performed poorly on air quality indices. The states of State of Global Air report, published in August 2022, reported New Delhi and Kolkata as the most polluted cities in the world. Mumbai was at 14th position.Patna city in the Indo-Gangetic belt too is one of the world’s most polluted cities. One of the best remediation options to tackle air pollution is urban forestry and agriculture, which not only adds beauty to the environment but also helps in combating air pollution.
Air pollution is connected to climate change in several ways. One of the main ways is that air pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to an increase in global temperatures, known as the greenhouse effect and is the primary driver of climate change. Another way that air pollution is connected to climate change is through the release of black carbon or soot particles. These particles are produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biomass, and other organic matter. Black carbon particles can absorb heat from the sun and contribute to global warming by heating the atmosphere. In addition to these direct impacts, air pollution can also indirectly contribute to climate change by altering ecosystems and reducing the ability of forests and other vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.