THOUSANDS of trees are to be planted near the shores of Lough Neagh as part of an NI Water plan.
NI Water’s ambition, to plant over 1 million trees over the next 10 years is underway.
As the second biggest landowner in Northern Ireland, NI Water is delivering a large-scale planting programme across 11,300 hectares of land.
Planting trees improves water quality, captures carbon, mitigate floods and enhances the natural environment.
Over the last decade, NI Water has planted over 150,000 trees in some of our 24 drinking water catchments in Counties Antrim and Armagh.
Trees planted close to river banks help prevent bankside erosion; as much of the water used for our drinking water comes from our rivers and lakes, trees act as a natural buffer.
NI Water’s Director of Business Services Alistair Jinks says: “Using NI Water land to plant trees, offsets the carbon emissions from NI Water’s electricity consumption. Trees being planted near our rivers and streams, helps reduce the effect of climate change by capturing carbon and slowing river flow. Tree roots also act as a natural water filter.
“The first phase of tree-planting will begin in January 2021, and continue until March, with approximately 40,000 trees being planted at NI Water sites at Dunore in County Antrim and Fofanny in County Down.
“There are plans in place for a further approximately 222,000 trees to be planted in Phase 2, subject to funding approval, by March 2022.”
In March 2020 Edwin Poots MLA the Minister for the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), launched the ‘Forests for our Future programme’ to help tackle climate change, pledging to plant 18 million trees over the next 10 years.
Minister Poots says: “This is an excellent response by NI Water, and a great example of how working in partnership with DAERA’s Forest Service and Woodland Trust can bring forward publically owned land to help us achieve the aims of the Forests for our Future programme.
“I am leading the development of the Executive’s Green Growth strategy which the NI Water initiative supports by capturing carbon, improving the landscape and environment and moving towards a net zero carbon economy.”
Working in partnership with the Woodland Trust and Forest Service NI over the last 10 years, who have provided the funding, NI Water has planted a diverse range of trees, native to Northern Ireland to encourage our flowers and fauna to flourish.
Trees also provide a home for wildlife and shelter for spawning fish.
Ian McCurley, Director for Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, says: “We have been working to deliver woodland on NI Water’s estate over the past ten years and are looking forward to the next decade where we will plant 1million trees together, starting with 6 hectares of native trees at Fofanny.
“The Woodland Trust is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity and aims to protect and restore ancient woodland, and create new woodland for nature, people and the climate.
“Northern Ireland is one of the least wooded regions in Europe, with just 8% of woodland cover compared with the European average of 37%. We need to rapidly increase tree cover to help reach net zero carbon emissions and tackle the declines in wildlife. In Northern Ireland, we need to reach a rate of planting 2000 hectares a year by 2025 in order to achieve our goals by 2030.
“We need to start creating woodland on a landscape scale in order to reach our targets.”
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon says: “I welcome NI Water’s ambition to plant a million trees over the next decade. When we embrace innovative and sustainable ways of reducing our carbon footprint and dealing with climate change, nature itself can provide the solution whilst also enhancing wonderful sites, rich in biodiversity. This is laying down firm roots for our next generation by helping to build a safer, cleaner and greener society.”
Over the last decade, many school children have helped NI Water to plant trees at their sites while at the same time, learning about nature and the water cycle.
Alistair Jinks adds: “As we begin the next decade of tree planting, we would welcome the next generation to get involved and to build on our legacy. Together we can all play a part in combating climate change, on our road to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.”
· NI Water is the second biggest landowner in Northern Ireland, after the Forestry Service, owning 11,300 hectares of land. This is made up of 990 hectares of water, 1210 hectares of forest, 1540 hectares of peat bogs and 7260 hectares is agriculture.
· NI Water produces c.90,000 tonnes of operational CO² per year in the treatment of water and wastewater.
· Phase 1 of tree-planting will begin in January 2021, and continue until March, with approximately 40,000 trees being planted at NI Water sites at Dunore in County Antrim and Fofanny in County Down.
· There are plans in place for a further approximately 222,000 trees to be planted in Phase 2, subject to funding approval, by March 2022, with trees to be planted in NI Water sites at Annalong and Spelga, County Down, Ballykelly in County Derry/Londonderry.
· NI Water aims to be carbon neutral by 2050
· Every day NI Water provides 575 million litres of ‘great tasting, safe drinking water’ and recycles 340 million litres of used water back to the natural environment. It costs around £460m each year to deliver water services in Northern Ireland. Thousands of assets at a value of around £3bn, are operated and maintained to provide these services. This includes over 40,000km of water mains and sewers – one and a half times longer than Northern Ireland’s entire road network and long enough to circle planet earth.