It is now estimated that half of the population live in cities. This metropolitan lifestyle so many brits are now living appears to be the norm, however there are cons to the ever-growing population in urban areas. It results in more vehicles on the road, more trees getting cut down to build new infrastructure and consequently more pollution.
In Greater Manchester, the most significant pollutant is Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) which forms primarily from road traffic emissions. A supreme court case found that large cities such as Manchester and London are at illegal levels of pollution; according to EU standards.
The pollution index in Manchester bases itself on NO2 which often exceeds health standards, particularly by the city centre and busy roads such as Oxford Road. It is estimated that Manchester will not comply to the legal until 2020.
Areas which exceed government standards can be viewed on the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) Map.
However, traffic and pollution levels on Oxford Road sparked the transformation to redevelop the road into a pedestrian friendly street; giving priority to cyclists and buses.
Due to the increase in population, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of green space being demolished to be replaced with ‘artificial surface’, which includes housing.
Research into the benefits of more green spaces in urban areas have proven that they can help tackle climate change and air pollution. Domestic gardens and parks filled with trees and shrubs can improve air quality simply by removing harmful gases and particles from the air as well as cooling the air with the shade they provide.
The lack of fully conditioned green space in cities is now more of an environmental issue then ever as materials used to build cities absorb more sun than natural resources. This means that temperatures in urban areas are typically higher than rural areas by one to two degrees; highlighting the need for more green space within the city.
Investing in more green space not only benefits the environment but it can dramatically improve lifestyles for the people it surrounds. Links between spending time in green space and better mental health have been found including lower stress levels. Additionally, levels of physical activity could increase if the public had easy access to many open outdoor spaces; potentially saving money on healthcare.
A lack of green space can result in over-use as many have nowhere else to go which often leads to vandalism and visitors never returning to the place.
Although it can be costly to invest in green spaces, once they are efficient, they can provide a huge boost in the economy. An urban oasis attracts even more tourists by making a city appear more aesthetically pleasing. This combined with the opportunity to decrease air-conditioning shows how essential green spaces are needed in our society.
Government cuts and focuses on building infrastructure within cities means that green spaces are often underappreciated and underfunded. This means that other organisation have had to step in to support the expansion and maintaining of community gardens, woodlands and parks.
Much of the support comes from campaigns such as Manchester’s own ‘Tree Trail‘ and the national campaign, ‘Grow Wild’ who work to bring communities together to transform local areas with wild flowers and pollinator-friendly plants. It’s funding comes from ‘The Big Lottery Fund’ which supports good causes through money from The National Lottery.
The ‘Grow Wild’ programme funds over 150 outdoor projects across the United Kingdom as well as giving out thousands of free seed packets to citizens each year. However, the funding programme is due to end in April 2017; making it clear that green space funding is an issue to be addressed in current politics.
— Tree Trail (@treetrailmcr) April 25, 2017
On the other hand, The Manchester City Council claims that 20% of the city is classed as tree covered. They have stated on their website, “By 2025 high-quality, well-maintained green and blue spaces will be an integral part of all neighbourhoods. The cities communities will be living healthy, fulfilled lives, enjoying parks and green spaces and safe green routes for walking, cycling and exercise throughout the city. ”
However, with pollution levels over the limit with no plan to reduce this till 2020 funding and work for green space is an urgent issue which cannot be ignored.
To get involved in raising awareness and helping green spaces thrive you can get involved with organisations such as “Grow Wild.” Additionally, you can volunteer to help work at local community gardens such as Hulme Garden Centre.
Not only does this benefit the environment, but it is an opportunity to meet new people as well as help you become more physically active and improve your well being.
This issue needs to be pushed through government agenda so another way to help raise awareness is by attending city council meetings which deal with city planning.
Find your latest local pollution levels Here.