Advice: government should tackle subsidence of peat meadows

The government must do more to prevent subsidence in peat meadows. This is stated in an advisory report by the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (RLI).

Soil in the Netherlands is subsiding in many places, but especially in peat meadows, which make up large parts of the country. This is mainly due to the intensification of agriculture: farmers are lowering the groundwater level in order to prevent ‘wetting’ of their land.


However, soil subsidence has adverse effects on the quality of nature and water, according to the RLI. Dry peat also emits a relatively large amount of CO2 and the damage caused by subsidence is very costly.

According to the council, a change is needed in the water management of peat meadows and the central government must actively intervene in this. For example, it calls for a statutory maximum for subsidence.

Compensation for farmers

The RLI also proposes that the provinces make ‘zoning maps’ showing for each area how far the water level needs to be raised. This would require regional ‘implementation tables’ in which the water boards would also be involved.

The council warns, however, that the intended rise in the groundwater level will have far-reaching consequences for farmers. Due to the dilapidation of their land, they will have to adapt their business operations, for example by keeping fewer cattle. The council believes that the government should compensate farmers financially for this.