The health disparities faced by Groningen residents whose properties have sustained multiple cases of damage as a result of gas extraction in the region are decreasing, while trust is increasing. This could be a turning point. But the coronavirus may throw a spanner in the works: it is an extra burden for residents who are dealing with property damages or reinforcement. These are the conclusions that Dr Katherine Stroebe and Prof. Tom Postmes of the University of Groningen draw from their most recent Gronings Perspectief study, commissioned by the National Coordinator Groningen.
How are the perceived safety, trust and health of the residents of the Groningen gas extraction area developing? And what problems are entrepeneurs encountering due to the gas extraction in the region? What is the impact of the coronavirus on residents who are affected by gas extraction? These were the central questions in the latest Gronings Perspectief study.
The health of residents who have experienced multiple cases of damage has improved in the recent period. There has also been a slight rise in residents’ trust in the government. Dr Katherine Stroebe: ‘For the first time since 2016, we are seeing an improvement in health. Until this point, we were witnessing reductions in health levels that were very concerning. This is a turning point – but we should be realistic too. The health of residents dealing with property damage is still poorer than that of those without any damage. And the number of people with damages is increasing. They require extra care.’
Halfway through the administration of the most recent survey of Gronings Perspectief, the ‘intelligent lockdown’ was announced in the Netherlands. Some of those surveyed answered questions about the coronavirus. Most thought that the coronavirus would have consequences for their damage or reinforcement procedures. Residents who were concerned about the coronavirus reported feeling less safe in relation to the gas extraction and reported worse health.
Approximately half of the entrepreneurs surveyed have faced adverse consequences due to gas extraction, especially when they own a business property. They encounter various problems as a result of property damage, loss of property value, extra time investments and disruption to business operations. Stroebe: ‘The consequences of the gas extraction have a great impact on some of the entrepreneurs. Our impression is that they fall between the cracks: many regulations that apply to individuals are not accessible or suitable for entrepreneurs. Their problems are often complex. They feel they are not being supported.’ Entrepreneurs indicate that they would benefit from better damage compensation, financial support and facilitation in creating employment opportunities – but also, simply, from the recognition of their problems.
Gronings Perspectief is a collaboration between the University of Groningen, the Municipal Health Service of Groningen and the Groningen Social and Cultural Planning Office. The researchers are assisted by a supervisory committee comprising the relevant municipalities, the Municipal Health Service, the interest group Groninger Bodembeweging, a cross-sectoral collective of social organizations Groninger Gasberaad, the National Coordinator Groningen, the Province of Groningen, the Veiligheidsregio (safety region) Groningen and the Association of Groningen Villages, as well as scientific experts.
Since 2016, a team, led by Dr Stroebe and Prof. Postmes, has been investigating the health, safety and future prospects of residents of all municipalities in the gas production area, on behalf of the National Coordinator Groningen. A panel of Groningers periodically completes a questionnaire on safety, health and perceptions of the future. All of the findings of Gronings Perspectief are published on the website.
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