The CityTrees being installed this week. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Divisive smart trees installed

Cork City Council came in a lot of criticism online this week after it was announced on social media that it had installed CityTrees.

Describing them as five striking high-tech CityTrees, Cork City Council said they were being installed in the city centre as part of a suite of actions to tackle air pollution and support public health across the city.

They are not, the council said, a replacement for trees but will act as a complement to trees.

There was a lot of reaction to the announcement online this week, specifically on Twitter where most users interacting with the post asked why real trees couldn’t have been used instead.

A few said it was an early April Fool’s joke while some commented that reducing traffic congestion would be a better option.

Others wrote “What fresh hell is this?” while another user asked if Cork “was okay” in response to the Twitter announcement.

Another user joked if only there were natural trees around that could clean the air, adding that it sounded farfetched.

Meanwhile one person was quick off the mark to create a Twitter account called Cork Robot Trees and joked (we hope) that “soon we shall rise”.

The four metre tall units have been installed at St Patrick’s Street near French Church Street and on Grand Parade near Cork City Library.

Using Internet Of Things (IOT) technology, these pieces of smart street furniture are covered in a mixture of moss cultures that filter harmful pollutants out of the air.

Each CityTree can filter the air usage equivalent of up to 7,000 people per hour, the council has said.

The project is part of Cork City Council’s continued efforts, it said, to improve the city’s air quality by combatting fine dust, particle pollution as well as other pollution associated with traffic congestion.

Director of Operations, David Joyce said: “The CityTrees provide a site- specific solution to the challenge of air pollution and are one of a suite of actions in Cork's Air Quality Strategy. Air pollution is a public health concern and Cork City Council is the first local authority in the country to progress such a strategy.”

He added: “The CityTrees also acts as an attractive piece of street furniture or meeting point and are in place in London, Berlin and Glasgow.

“In a recent public survey conducted by Cork City Council on attitudes towards air pollution, 97 per cent of the 744 respondents deemed air quality as important or very important while 47 per cent of those answered the survey are most concerned with air pollution from traffic.”

Fine dust consists of a complex mixture of tiny particles with a diameter of less than ten micrometres harmful to humans and is linked to lung and cardiovascular problems. Air pollution is responsible for up to 1,300 deaths in Ireland each year, according to the EPA.

The moss acts as a filter to ‘trap’ and ‘eat’ fine dust making it a sustainable and regenerative fine dust filter. Scientific studies by the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research shows that the moss cleans about 80 per cent of fine dust from the air, the council said.

The council also said this project is associated with ongoing efforts to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of the council’s operations and future growth as witnessed by our pedestrianisation of 17 city centre streets.

Cork City Council said it wants the Cork of the future to be built on a high quality of life, sustainability and resilience.

Up to 1,200 trees were planted by the council and local community groups this year.

Cork's Air Quality Strategy and the CityTrees are being launched this morning, Thursday.