“Air Factories” lacking in Recife
The Pernambucan capital is the 6th worst city in Latin America in terms of the ratio between trees and people. Planting trees gives a large return on investment.
A medium-sized tree is capable of exuding the equivalent of 60 liters of water per day. Humidity escapes through the leaves and mixes with the particles of dust in the air, which become increasingly heavy and fall to the ground. In this way, they can cool Recife’s temperature between 2 and 8 degrees celsius and leave the city’s air cleaner. They could. A study by the largest environmental conservatory in the world The Nature Conservancy has shown the Pernambucan capital is one of the 10 worst cities in Latin America in its ratio of trees per particles of pollution. There are 250K trees in all of Recife, in contrast to a population of 1.6 million people. In an ideal situation, the number of people and trees, at least, would be equal.
The “Planting Healthy Air” study  evaluated places in which an investment in trees could impact the lives of people. “The bigger the population and the less vegetation there is, the more pockets of hot air there are. Recife needs to balance this out to improve air quality and register less cardiorespitory diseases. Today, planting a tree is a question of health”, says Fernando Veiga, the Conservancy’s Vice-Director of Conservation for Latin America. Yearly, there are over three million deaths registered due to the effects of fine particulate matter, a result of dust and burning fossil fuels. Beyond the city’s trivial release, an mineral oil tanker from Chesf exploded this year in San Martin, in Recife’s West Zone, releasing more than a ton of harmful substances, among them greenhouse and carcinerous gases into the atmosphere. The soot covered most of the neighborhood.
“Trees can remove up to one fourth of this particulate material and, planted in the right places, they function as a very effective barrier that filters dirty air and protects the local population. A medium-sized specimen cools as much as four air conditioners. The concentration of dust particulates on tree-lined streets is just 25% in relation to those that have no trees”, says Veiga. The planting of trees, the main goal of the TNC study, can have an additional initial effect. That’s because, upon developing, the tree needs double the CO2 for the photosynthesis process. “It’s like an adolescent who needs to eat well to have energy. And trees even release pure oxygen for us. If cut or burned, it releases all the carbon gas it has absorbed”, explains biologist Nelson Noveli.
Noveli also critisizes the frequent erradications undertaken by the city administration and its lack of care with trees. In 2015, Recife received the title of the fifth greenest city in the world, a widly-published title. However, the navegability of the Capibaribe and green roofs, two of the three main motives for the high number ranking, are still promissed. The incentive to use bicycles, another reason for the ranking, has also received critiques for being recreational instead of substituting cars. The goal of the city’s Bike Lane Plan foresaw the first phase of the bike lanes being delivered last year, which didn’t happen.
Request a tree
The City Seedbed, in Casa Amarela, a two-hectare space run by Emlurb, has the aim of producing and seeding trees destined for urban forestation. Per month, up to five thousand saplings are grown. There are 120 types of plants, both exotic and native, such as ipê, acácia and flamboyanzinho. Their planting can be requested by any citizen via dialing 156. “After the request, a technician will go to the location to evaluate the area. The presence of electrical wires and the width of the sidewalk define the species”, says Emlurb agronomist Fernando Bivar. “But environmental education is a distant reality for people. People say the leaves are going to dirty the sidewalks.
– Folha de Pernambuco (PT, here)
PS – If you’d like to read about how Rio de Janeiro functions in regards to the planting of trees, read this article (PT).