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Societal impact of gas extraction in Groningen: state of knowledge

The Knowledge Platform conducts a knowledge overview on the social impact of earthquakes caused by gas extraction. In June 2018, the first knowledge overview 'Maatschappelijke Gevolgen Bodembeweging Groningen' was published. This covered the studies up to June 2018.
The current study is an update and follow-up of the 2018 study. The knowledge overview aims to provide a complete overview of knowledge developments and gives an integral overview of the social consequences of gas extraction in Groningen. In doing so, the knowledge overview not only indicates the state of knowledge, but also in which areas research is lacking and should be supplemented. For this updated overview, we have used the literature published after June 2018 up to and including July 2019.

Below we briefly discuss the findings of each chapter. The knowledge overview
  is written in Dutch. The chapters can be downloaded separately. 
 1.Governance, communication and policy

In this chapter, you can read about the relevant legal and administrative developments. Communication with residents is also discussed in detail. Studies and articles discussed in this chapter were conducted and written by, among others, Bakema et al. (2018), van de Bunt (2019), Schmidt et al. (2018) and researchers from Gronings Perspectief. Furthermore, the so-called Critical Reviews are also discussed (Derksen & Gebben, 2018, 2019).


An important finding is that several research teams conclude that the central government has caused an institutional crisis. An institutional crisis is defined as a policy sector that faces a relatively sharp decline in legitimacy. In addition, the government's intervention seems to have worsened rather than improved the gas extraction problem. The system that has been set up within the framework of damage repair and reinforcement is becoming increasingly complex and it demands a lot from residents to keep up with developments. Communication with residents about regulations and policy is sometimes contradictory and often unclear. 

2. The perception of safety, trust, damage, and reinforcement

This chapter examines the influence of the earthquakes on residents' sense of security and safety in more detail, and describes their experiences with damage control and the reinforcement operation. It also discusses the impact of the gas extraction issue on residents' trust in institutions and the impact of the reinforcement task on social cohesion in neighbourhoods and villages. Studies and articles used in this chapter were conducted and written by, among others, the Committee on Special Situations (2018), Elshof et al. (2018), the Independent Counselor (2019) and researchers affiliated with Gronings Perspectief. 


An important finding is that residents' trust in the various institutions continues to decline. Feelings of insecurity, but also powerlessness, indignation, anger and disappointment are stronger among people with damage (and especially people with multiple damages) to their home. Various studies indicate that such feelings are more prevalent than before. A large proportion of residents are worried about the future and have been stuck in an undesirable situation for years: their lives are 'locked up'. In addition, the inequality and jealousy that can accompany the handling of damage claims and reinforcement threaten the social cohesion within villages and the region as a whole. All this is personally and socially disruptive. 

3. The housing market and economic development
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This chapter discusses recent economic developments in Groningen in terms of the housing market and employment. The studies and articles discussed here were conducted and written by Alsem et al. (2018), Boumeester & Lamain (2018) and Posthumus et al. (2018, 2019), among others. Many of these publications consist of, or are based on, reports and figures from the central government, Statistics Netherlands and the Owner-Occupied House Market Indicator. 



An important insight from this chapter is that the Groningen housing market is recovering somewhat after a long period of stagnation. Prices of owner-occupied houses are rising and houses are being sold more quickly. According to the researchers, it could well be that these developments are mainly caused by the tightness on the national housing market. The economic development in Groningen is more difficult to depict - many projects have yet to be evaluated. However, there does seem to be a shortage of personnel in some sectors. Strikingly absent from economic research is the Groningen household - no research has been done into the consequences of soil movement and reinforcement tasks on the wallets of residents.

4. Living environment and liveability

In this chapter you can read about the liveability of the region. Quality of life refers to the quality characteristics of a region, neighbourhood or village as experienced by residents. Studies and articles have been conducted and written by Jansen (2019), Meerstra-de Haan et al. (2019) and Ubels (2019a, 2019b), among others.

In this chapter, it becomes clear that the liveability of the area is rated lower than in previous years. Much is now asked of residents' initiatives to keep the area liveable. The government could play a more prominent role here in terms of coordination and support. In addition to the earthquakes, liveability is also under great pressure due to population shrinkage.

5. Culture, identity and image
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This chapter discusses knowledge developments in the field of (damage to) heritage, identity formation and the Groningen image. Studies and articles have been conducted and written by Meinders (2019) and the NCG (2019), among others. The Critical Reviews are also discussed here. 


An important insight in this chapter is that Groningers feel a strong connection with their region. Cultural heritage plays an important role in this. Knowledge about this heritage and how it can best be preserved is spread among various experts and inhabitants and appears to be difficult to bring together. The Groningen Heritage Programme is a programme that is working on this. Groningen's image as a province in the rest of the Netherlands has taken a hit. The number of people who associate Groningen with cosiness has fallen drastically and some tourists say they will not return to Groningen because of the gas extraction issue. 

6. Health and well-being
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This chapter presents the latest insights into the impact of gas extraction and earthquakes on health and well-being, including recently conducted studies on the effects on children. Studies and articles discussed in this chapter include those conducted by Zijlstra et al. (2019), van Vreeswijk (2019) and Gronings Perspectief (Postmes et al., 2019; Stroebe et al., 2019a). 


The group of people with health complaints due to stress and worry seems to be increasing. People with multiple damages to their homes are more likely to suffer from this. Also people whose house is damaged, but live somewhere with relatively little or no further damage, and people who feel lonely are possibly more susceptible to these health problems. Children are not unscathed either. Research shows that children can have the same complaints as adults and may even show symptoms of depression.

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