THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch farmers protested government plans to cut nitrogen emissions by dumping manure and garbage on highways and setting fires along roads on Wednesday — the latest actions of a summer of discontent. Police urged them to stop for safety reasons and were investigating those responsible.
Traffic authorities said several roads in the center and east of the Netherlands were completely or partially blocked by the blockades early in the morning and fire services rushed to clear the roads as the traffic was piling up. Cleanup operations were expected to take hours on some roads.
Dutch media reported that at one location a sign was left behind saying: ‘Sorry for the inconvenience, Rutte IV drives us to despair’, a reference to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government, the fourth coalition he led. .
Police and security authorities called on farmers to end what they described as dangerous situations.
“Protesting is a fundamental right and as long as it remains within the bounds of the law, much is possible,” the emergency services said in a joint statement. But they said the latest actions “seriously endanger road safety and can lead to life-threatening situations for road users”.
The latest protests came a day after a government-appointed mediator sent out invitations to farmers’ organizations to discuss with the country’s ruling coalition ways to cut nitrogen emissions.
“I see the talks as a turning point: breaking the deadlock together,” said mediator Johan Remkes. “The firm has assured me that there is room and that joint solutions are possible.”
But some farmers have rejected Remkes’ appointment as an independent mediator because he is a member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right political party and a former deputy prime minister.
Farmers are angry at government targets to limit nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions which they say threaten to destroy their farming lifestyle and bankrupt them.
The government says nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions, produced by livestock, must be drastically reduced near natural areas which are part of a network of protected habitats for endangered plants and wildlife that extend across the European Union of 27 countries.
The ruling coalition wants to reduce pollutant emissions by 50% nationwide by 2030, calling it an “inevitable transition” to improve soil, air and water quality in a country. EU known for its intensive agricultural practices. He called on provincial authorities to develop emission reduction plans and earmarked an additional 24.3 billion euros ($24.6 billion) to fund the changes.
Farmers say they are being unfairly targeted while other industries, such as aviation, construction and transport, also contribute to emissions and face less extensive rules. They also say the government is not giving them a clear picture of their future amid proposed reforms.
Earlier this year, farmers blocked highways with tractors and blocked supermarket distribution centers.
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