Dutch farmers protest plan to curb nitrogen pollution
The protest in Stroe, 70 kilometres east of Amsterdam, follows the introduction last week of targets for reducing pollution by harmful nitrogen compounds in some areas by up to 70% by 2030 - the latest attempt to solve a problem that has plagued the country for years. Reductions are necessary in emissions of nitrogen oxides from farm animal manure and use of ammonia for fertilisation, the government says.
Thousands of farmers were gathering in a village near the center of the Netherlands on Wednesday to protest a government plan to curb nitrogen pollution, many traveling by tractors from all corners of the country and snarling traffic. The protest in Store, 70 kilometers east of Amsterdam, follows the introduction last week of targets for reducing pollution by harmful nitrogen compounds in some areas by up to 70% by 2030 - the latest attempt to solve a problem that has plagued the country for years.
Reductions are necessary for emissions of nitrogen oxides from farm animal manure and the use of ammonia for fertilization, the government says. Nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere help form acid rain, while fertilizer washed into lakes can cause algal blooms that kill marine life. Farmers argue the targets are poorly conceived and unfair. They are expected to lead to a 30% reduction in the number of Dutch livestock, with effects more concentrated in agricultural areas bordering nature preserves.
"These reductions are so severe that those rural communities will be devastated economically, and that's the reason our farmers are going to Store today," said Sander van Diepen, a spokesperson for agricultural organization LTO. He said the industry supported reductions that would be evenly distributed across the country and which would also require sacrifices by the transportation and construction industries. They also contribute to emissions of nitrogen oxides.
The Netherlands is one of the world's largest agricultural exporters. High-intensity farming of cows, pigs, and other animals in the densely populated country has made it Europe's leading emitter of substances. The government targets were intended to comply with rulings in 2018 by the European Court of Justice and 2019 by the Netherlands' Council of State that found Dutch policies had failed to address the longstanding problem.
In 2020 the government set a national speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour in an attempt to ease emissions. Construction projects are now routinely delayed due to difficulties obtaining licenses covering the emission of nitrogen compounds.
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