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Relationships must be repaired if progress is to be made on the gas extraction issue

06 July 2021

What do we know about the societal impact of gas extraction in Groningen? On 28 June 2021, the Liveable and Promising Groningen Knowledge Platform (Kennisplatform Leefbaar en Kansrijk Groningen) published its annual overview of knowledge: Insight into impact . The report provides a comprehensive overview of the consequences for residents and society, based on insights derived from over 250 publications. The overview was presented to the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, who commissioned the Knowledge Platform to carry out this project.

Tremendous commitment, immense challenge

Since control of the situation has been transferred to public hands, efforts to tackle the issue have intensified enormously. At the same time, the magnitude of the task has become clear: not only houses but also people and relationships have suffered serious damage. But have recent administrative developments solved the gas extraction issue in Groningen? Unfortunately, this study shows that this is not the case. For residents and professionals alike, it continues to be a complex and incomprehensible situation. Administrative rules change frequently, residents have little confidence in the authorities involved and some residents are still suffering from a health disparity. The expectation is that it will take at least another 10 to 20 years to solve the current problems.

Reparation of relationships deserves more attention

To better understand what ‘reparation’ means in Groningen, the Knowledge Platform distinguishes between material, procedural and relational reparation. The authorities involved seem to be primarily concerned with the material reparation of physical damage and safety. ‘But,’ observes Sanne Hupkes, project researcher, ‘it is too simplistic to expect that compensation for material and immaterial damage will automatically lead to the restoration of relationships and trust. Relations between citizens and the government, and between government bodies themselves, have been seriously damaged.’ In order to restore trust, existing knowledge about the societal dimension of the problem must be used more effectively. Additionally, the approach for tackling the gas extraction issue must allow more room for residents and communities to have their say. At the moment, they are side-lined far too often. Authorities say they want to put residents first but, in practice, their approach continues to focus primarily on the technical side.

Lessons learned

In order to learn lessons from the gas extraction issue, the Knowledge Platform is exploring how mining policy can be structured differently, so that the benefits and burdens for residents are fairly distributed. Nienke Busscher, project coordinator: ‘The current procedure for issuing permits for mining is repeating the same old mistakes made in Groningen. Residents are being ignored, responsibilities are insufficiently defined and procedures are unclear. The national government simply must provide a clear vision on this if there is to be any hope of achieving a socially responsible policy.’

Care and attention

The Knowledge Platform stressed the need for more care and attention prior to projects, during implementation and in the completion phase. The Knowledge Platform’s insights into societal disruption provide guidance on how to prevent and reduce the negative impact of mining on society.

Information

  • Sanne Hupkes, project researcher at the Liveable and Promising Groningen Knowledge Platform: s.hupkes@rug.nl or tel.: +31 (0)6 82469956
Last modified:07 July 2021 11.33 a.m.
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