NEWS » Olive grove to block new gas pipeline?

Olive grove to block new gas pipeline?

An Italian olive grove near the town of Melendugno, in the Puglia region, stands in the way of a pipeline destined to bring gas from central Asia to the EU. This pipeline designed to bring gas from central Asia and help wean the European Union off its dependence on Russian energy is going to cause the removal of 10,000 olive trees to allow a trench to be dug for the pipeline. The trees will be replanted later on.


The new pipeline will reduce the importation of energy, which is now at  90 percent, and will enable Italy to become a gas hub for southern Europe. 


The 878-km (546 miles) Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project will run from the Turkish-Greek border and carry gas across Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to the small Italian beach of San Foca. It is a way of becoming less dependent on the EU's top energy supplier, Russia. The project is meant within four years to carry the equivalent of 10 percent of Europe's Russian energy imports. The TAP is the last stage of the so-called Southern Gas Corridor that is meant to pump 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas each year, expandable to 20 bcm, from Azerbaijan’s giant Shah Deniz II field into European markets.


Some of the trees which stand in the way of the TAP are thought to be more than 400 years old. For this reason Local authorities want the pipeline re-routed away from the grove, whose oldest trees are recognized as part of the world heritage by UNESCO. Rome's central authority has already given its approval on condition that the trees will be transplanted while pipes are laid and buried.


People in Melendugno have different views on the subject. Some believe the investment will be beneficial to the area but others fear it will damage the region's tourism.

Work on the Italian side of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) cannot proceed without local consent. The pipeline consortium, which includes Britain's BP (BP.L), Azeri state energy company SOCAR and Italian gas company Snam (SRG.MI), has hired 24-hour security to make sure they'll face up to potential protests.


Italian local authorities have the power to thwart the central Government's decisions. The Decembre the 4th referendum proposes to dilute this power.


The regions are worried about this reform because they fear they will be weaker in the face of the central government and will have less say on things they don't agree about.


There is a risk that some olive trees won't survive. Transplanting them could expose the trees to xylella, a bacteria that has destroyed tens of thousands of trees in recent years. Archaeologists will make preliminary excavations, in order to check for any buried antiquities before work of the pipeline can begin.


Another local concern is that burying the pipeline about 10 meters below the beach will ruin the popular Puglia beach of San Foca, on the Salento coast. 


The developers say gas pipelines have been built beneath eight other top Italian beaches without any impact on tourism. 


Puglia's governor, Michele Emiliano, asked for the pipeline to land further north near the city of Brindisi where it could connect directly to Snam's existing gas network. TAP executive Elia says studies showed the Brindisi option to be unfeasible. 


The regional governor Michele Emiliano has asked the central government to restart the approvals process for the TAP from the beginning

Giulia Lombardo

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