Pakistan floods. Forest fires in southern Europe. Lost crops in Africa. The effects of climate change often seem remote. But the problems are also becoming more pronounced in the Netherlands.
very dry summer
Both 2018 and 2022 are among the five Absolutely dry summer. 2019 and 2020 were also drier than usual. The fact that much less rain fell in the past five summers is a direct result of climate change.
The drought has dried up Holland, as it were. Due to the low level of groundwater, soils are also receding in many areas. This can cause the foundations of homes to sag, which can lead to serious damage.
Dry summer, cracks in the facade
Bart van den Beamt knows all about it. In the spring of 2018, he bought an old farmhouse in the village of Gendt, a stone’s throw from the Waal River. A few months later, summer had just ended, and he saw cracks in his facade for the first time. His house was drowning.
The damage has only increased in recent years. The drought has not gone unnoticed this year. “We came back from vacation this summer. We wanted to open the front door. But it was stuck. The door was simply stuck because the house had collapsed,” van den Beamt says.
Not only peat, but also clay areas are at risk
Van den Beamt’s house was not built on piles. His house is built on mud and is seen as a solid foundation. This is in contrast to the west and north of our country, where the soil consists mainly of peat. Because this is flimsy, the homes here have been built on stilts for centuries.
However, the Knowledge Center for Basic Damage Approach (KCAF) is receiving more and more reports of foundation damage from clay areas in recent years. Severe drought causes the soil to settle, also because rivers are low.
Then the soil dries up, causing the centimeters to sink. Once it starts raining again in the fall, the land expands again, causing everything to rise again. Frank van Leer, Director of KCAF, explains that the “air mattress effect” is disastrous for organizations.
Record number of damage reports
This year alone, Van Leer received 2,000 damage reports. That’s 70 percent more than in 2018. So that was a really dry year. He cautions that this is just the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that one million homes are at risk of being damaged in the first place.
In peat areas, especially in the west of the country, foundation damage has been a problem for years. This is due to the low level of groundwater in recent years. Thus, the wooden piles on which old houses were built in particular, will remain dry. As a result, houses rot and droop.
Van Laer says climate change is accelerating this problem, because droughts are causing the groundwater level to drop even more. He therefore calls for water boards to better regulate the level of groundwater in those areas. Even if it is questionable whether this is sufficient in very dry summers.
Fixing the foundation quickly costs a ton
In order to put an end to the problems, the foundation at Van den Bemt will soon be repaired. This is an expensive issue. Foundation repair can easily cost 100,000 euros. And in some homes, the entire ground floor must be demolished to access the sagging foundation.
We talk to Van Lier in such a house in Rotterdam, where the foundation is now being repaired. “The resident has to leave their home for six months. He lost his kitchen, bathroom and living room. So in addition to fixing the foundation, there are also costs for a new installation package. And what about the emotional damage?”
Damage Repair Fund
Van den Beamt hopes the government will step in. “No normal person can suffer from this. I think it is also a responsibility of the government. Because they are responsible for the land under my house.”
KCAF, along with housing associations, insurance companies and the Homeowners Association, advocate for a national approach from The Hague. For example, Van Lier mentions a fund from which money can be borrowed to pay exorbitant redemption costs.
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