After the earthquake in Zeerijp, the Minister of Economic Affairs announced a number of new measures. But how do residents living in the affected areas feel six months after the earthquake? A survey of 1,377 local people was held as part of the second phase of the Gronings Perspectief research project. The respondents demonstrate more resilience now than in previous surveys, but they are steadily losing faith and feel increasingly unsafe. They also have very little confidence in the measures, largely because they do not trust the government's motives. Those who have been hardest hit and suffered multiple episodes of damage are increasingly pessimistic about a good outcome. These are the conclusions of Dr Katherine Stroebe and Prof. Tom Postmes from the University of Groningen on the basis of research that they carried out for the National Coordinator Groningen.
In general terms, the conclusions are in line with the outcomes of previous studies (including panel studies). This research highlights points for special attention regarding people’s feelings of safety and their health. To the residents of north-east Groningen, the earthquake in Zeerijp on 8 January 2018 was an acute attack on their trust and well-being. During the six months that followed, this was only partially restored. In terms of health and emotional welfare, the residents are demonstrating signs of resilience. At the same time, they feel increasingly unsafe. Their faith in any parties connected with extracting gas and in the government has diminished.
After the earthquake in Zeerijp, the government immediately stepped in with measures to reduce gas extraction. But six months later, the people of Groningen have little faith in this new policy. They no longer trust the government's good intentions. Respondents are suspicious of hidden agendas, such as the government delaying or dragging its feet with regard to the strategy, or that the policy measures are simply window dressing. As one respondent put it:
‘We’re constantly waiting for the next measure, the next delaying tactic, the next exception to the rule. I won't believe that anything will actually happen until a contractor arrives to repair the damage to my house.’
UG researcher Katherine Stroebe: ‘The crux of the matter is that residents have very concrete problems. They have damage to their properties or are waiting for reinforcement work. It's direct, decisive action that they need; the help they've been promised time and time again. Some of them have been waiting for years.’
Residents who have undergone multiple episodes of damage to their homes are suffering the most. They no longer believe in a solution. At the same time, the number of these residents affected by multiple episodes of damage is rising. Tom Postmes: ‘The fact that people have lost hope is particularly significant: when considering the future, those who have been hit hardest are the least confident about the damage ever being repaired or their homes reinforced. This group should be given priority in the measures to resolve these problems.’
Gronings Perspectief is a collaboration between the University of Groningen, the Groningen local health authority and the Groningen Social and Cultural Planning Office. The researchers are being assisted by a supervisory committee formed by the municipalities in the province, the local health authority, Groninger Bodembeweging, Groninger Gasberaad, National Coordinator Groningen, the Province of Groningen, the Veiligheidsregio, Vereniging Groninger Dorpen and academic experts.
The team, led by Dr Stroebe and Prof. Postmes and commissioned by the National Coordinator Groningen, has been studying the health, sense of safety and perceived future prospects of residents in all municipalities of Groningen since 2016. Since the research was launched, a panel of Groningen residents has filled in seven questionnaires about safety, health and their feelings about the future. This report belongs to the second phase of this research. The findings from Gronings Perspectief Phase 1 and 2 have been described in various academic reports and published on the groningsperspectief.nl site.
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On Friday 27 September, Prof. H.J.M. Janssen was appointed Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. The Mayor of Heerenveen Tjeerd van der Zwan presented the award in Het Kasteel In Groningen.