Dutch soil policies and institutional structure

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Dutch soil policies and institutional structure

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The soil policy in the Netherlands focuses on using the soil in a conscious and sustainable manner. This involves protecting the health of people, plants and animals, whilst allowing the soil to be used for support of economic development.

The Dutch soil policy has changed fundamentally in recent years. The purpose of these changes is to prevent and tackle soil pollution in the Netherlands, at the same time using the soil consciously and sustainably. For example, many of the central government’s responsibilities have shifted to the provinces, district water boards and municipalities. Moreover, the Dutch central government favours a comprehensive approach to environmental policy and spatial planning, which increases the responsibilities of the decentralised public authorities. Besides preventing pollution and cleaning up contaminated soil, the soil policy is also aimed at other forms of damage that affect the soil, such as erosion, drought and decreasing biodiversity.

The Policy Letter on Soil (House of Representatives, year of session 2003-2004, 28663 and 28199, no. 13) offers a clear perspective on the key issues of Dutch soil policy:

  • Soil policy focuses on the conscious and sustainable use of the soil. Users have the right to make use of the land, but they are also required to treat the soil with care. Decentralised public authorities assess the social parties with respect to responsible use and the associated effects on the soil;
  • The soil is seen as a dynamic ecosystem and is therefore viewed from a chemical, physical and biological perspective;
  • There is additional scope for decentralisation. The decentralised public authorities place requirements on the quality of the soil and ensure this is recorded. The municipalities do this for the land while the water quality manager does this for the water. The soil quality ambitions are set down in a soil management plan or in municipal byelaws. This guarantees the public authorities’ input and democratic control;
  • The intensity of soil management is clearly linked to the risks of pollution occurring, or from exposure to or the spreading of pollution.

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