Dutch News

1 May 2014

For a lot of Dutch cities on or near the coast, the sinking of the ground is a much larger problem than the rising of the sea level. At the congress of the European Geophysical Union in Vienna a scientist of the University in Utrecht even stated that some Dutch cities sink ten times faster than the sea level rises. On a global scale soil compaction is estimated to cost billions.

There are also many other cities in the world, like Bangkok, Jakarta, Venice and New Orleans that are endangered because they sink under the sea level. This obviously make the chance for floods much larger, which can damage the buildings and infrastructure seriously. The university of Utrecht estimates the yearly costs of the sinking of ground to at least billions.


Most of the soil compaction is caused by humans. Especially the extracting of drinking-water causes a lot ground to sink. A city like Tokyo has sunk more than 4 metres between 1900 and 1975. The process only stopped because the Japanese decided not to extract water anymore. The same counts for Venice. But here the measure does not stop the sinking.


Specialists say that a part of the soil compaction can be stopped by stopping to extract water, oil or gas, but also by building houses with less heavy materials. In the Netherlands there are examples of area’s with a lot of peat where only super light materials like, volcanic rock or even Styrofoam, are used to build roads.


The specialists at the congress underlined that there is not much attention for soil compaction. After floods it is usually the sea level rise that is mentioned  as the main cause.  The sinking of the ground is is a hidden problem, probably caused by the fact that there is no general solution. Every location in the world needs its own approach to fight the compaction.


Since  1950 Jakarta sinks with a few centimetres a year, but the authorities were only waking up in 2007 after heavy floods. In that year Jakarta had sunk already 1.5 metre since 1950 and now sinks even more than 10 centimetres a year.


The Dutch coast sinks 0,3 centimetre a year. Here it has a natural cause. The area where the Netherlands sinks the fastest is Groningen. Here the cause is the extraction of gas and around the relatively new city of Almere, where the effect of claiming and creating new land is still causing the ground to sink. Also the Dutch peat grasslands sink a centimetre a year, because the peat is decomposing and bedding down.


According to an hydrologist the problems with some of these sinking cities are spectacular. ‘The sinking of coastal cities also causes pollution of groundwater, because seawater penetrates in the ground and land is flooded with polluted water.


source: De Volkskrant






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