Plant a tree and pay pollution debt

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The Independent Online
A CHARITY is asking today's polluters to help make amends in the after-life through a legacy to plant trees. One benefit of tree-planting programmes is that they can help to mop up the carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.

Car and home owners contri-bute to global warming through pollution emissions, which help to heat up the planet, worsening the food crisis in much of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

Tree Aid, a small British charity whose patrons include Trevor MacDonald and David Bellamy, is considering offering people a service to enable them to estimate how much pollution they are responsible for in their lives. They could then draw up a personal environmental balance sheet, showing the pollution "debt" left behind. By assuming that it will cost pounds 1 to grow one mature tree in Africa, containing one tonne of carbon dioxide, it would be possible to calculate how many trees should be planted, and at what cost, to remedy the damage.

Miranda Spitteler, director of Tree Aid, says that tree plant- ing achieves other environmental benefits. "Africa is rapidly losing its tree cover, and 90 per cent of people in the Sahel region depend on trees for fuel. Tree planting can provide a buffer against soil erosion. We plant trees for coppicing for fuel, and leaves for animal feed."

The local micro-climate for food growing is improved in several ways, with soil quality enhanced, and crops given better protection against winds and water erosion.

Tree Aid's planting programmes have taken place in Mali, Niger and Northern Sudan, concentrating on indigenous species such as the Mes- quite, whose pods contain high levels of protein.

The Eucalyptus tree is also planted, because of its qualities in defending soil against erosion, and in providing medicinal products.

The charity helps to provide wells and irrigation channels to support local people, their crops and the trees.

q Tree Aid can be contacted on 0117 934 9442.