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Prof. dr. Han Olff in 'Dagblad van het Noorden': 'Nitrogen is one of the biggest problems.'

13 April 2023
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Cow in the Reestdal. Photo: Marco in 't Veldt

Do you still understand where the nitrogen approach is headed? "If we do nothing, the country will really come to a standstill."

"You could see it clearly during the coronavirus period," says Olff. "Nature reserves were busier than ever, and nature organizations gained many new members. Yet, this enthusiasm cannot be translated into a sort of political power. Just as we are 'proud of the farmers,' we should also be 'proud of nature.' After all, nature also makes your own region unique."

But nature is under pressure in all Dutch provinces. Provincial governments are currently investigating how severe this pressure really is.

New research provides new evidence: nature is truly affected by nitrogen.

Commissioned by the government, they are conducting so-called nature target analyses. This should create a clear overview of how the Natura2000 areas are really doing, what poses a threat, and what can be done against it.

The National Ecological Authority assesses all 162 analyses that have been conducted. Eight of these have already been completed. "What stands out is that in those already completed, it is very clearly stated that nitrogen is one of the biggest problems," says Olff.

So, the issue cannot simply be solved through better management or a different water management system. "There was some hope here and there that there were other bottlenecks and that the impact of nitrogen would not be so significant. But the first thing that emerges is that nitrogen is indeed a significant problem."

With this knowledge, provinces and the national government must take action to limit nitrogen emissions from industry, traffic, and agriculture. "If they don't," Olff explains, "the country will really come to a standstill. For every permit application, from expanding a stable to building a new road or residential area, citizen organizations can take the matter to court. Because then, such a plan demonstrably poses a threat to nature, and the province is not making sufficient progress in nature protection."

Last modified:02 June 2023 2.31 p.m.
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