The impact of the earthquakes in Groningen province is similar to the aftermath of the flood disaster of 1953, Groningen’s mayor Ruud Vreeman says in an interview with the AD.
The earthquakes in northern parts of the country are an issue for the entire country and national government should be involved in strengthening buildings, Vreeman said. ‘I can no longer assume sole responsibility,’ he told the paper. ‘This has to be dealt with at a national level.’
The quakes, caused by the ground settling following natural gas extraction, have recently been felt in the densely populated provincial capital itself. ‘That gives the problem an entirely new dimension,’ Vreeman said. ‘We have hospitals, schools and university buildings. How do we ensure they are all safe?’
Politicians have to understand the problem is about more than a few cracks in a few walls, he said, adding that the official approach would be different if the gas reserves were located close to The Hague or Amsterdam.
The risks have to be reduced and that means NAM, the gas company jointly owned by Shell and ExxonMobil, will have to drastically reduce the amount of gas it takes out of the ground, he says.
At the beginning of this year the government agreed to scale back gas production because of the earthquake risk. Total production, which reached almost 53 billion cubic metres last year, will be cut back around 20% to 42.5 billion cubic metres this year and in 2015.
This will cost the treasury €2.3bn in lost income over the three-year period. In addition, ministers have earmarked an extra €1.2bn for Groningen province to strengthen buildings and the infrastructure.
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