Senay Boztas AMSTERDAM: 22 Nov 2015: Sunday Times
THE Dutch are being forced to earthquake-proof their dykes after a spate of tremors blamed on the effects of extracting gas from the vast field running beneath the country.
Although Holland lies far from any big geological fault lines, half a century of exploitation of the Groningen field – Europe’s largest – is blamed for causing about 50 earthquakes a year.
The government is considering how much it should reduce lucrative gas production, which has been a mainstay of the Dutch economy throughout the financial crisis.
Last week the country’s highest administrative court ordered Henk Kamp, the economic affairs minister, to cut gas production to
27bn cubic metres this year – 6bn less than he had proposed – despite the estimated cost to the treasury of €lbn (£700m).
“The financial considerations are secondary,” said Heleen Haverkort, a spokeswoman at the ministry for economic affairs. “The focus of the government is to ensure the safety of the people in Groningen.”
While the politicians argue, authorities are repairing thousands of collapsing buildings and homes and planning to strengthen those in danger. Some 800 chimneys in Groningen, the capital of the eponymous province, are being replaced with safer aluminium flues.
The Supermarket chain Albert Heijn opened its first earthquake-proof store last week – with a rubber foundation and a wooden, not concrete, frame – in the nearby town of Loppersum.
The engineering firm Grontmij will deliver plans next February for Holland’s first earthquake-proof sea dyke, to be built between Eemshaven and Delfzijl.