Local residents put
Communities in Salento, in the southern ‘heel’ of Italy, are on the frontlines of the battle to stop the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). For years, local people have been campaigning against the planned pipeline that would carry gas from Azerbaijan to Italy.
The pipeline would come onshore in the beautiful seaside town of San Foca. Its construction, including a gas receiving terminal, would cause significant damage to the local landscape and coastline.
TAP and the Southern Gas Corridor are the largest fossil fuel projects the EU is pursuing. They are meant to bring billions of cubic metres of gas to Europe and are therefore incompatible with Europe’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Existing fossil fuel operations already exceed the carbon budget left to avoid catastrophic, irreversible changes to our climate. There is simply no space for any new projects, and certainly not for infrastructure of this scale.
Despite the climate impacts of the project, objections of the local people and local politicians, the Italian government wants to push it through.
On 20th March, the stakes were raised when the pipeline company – without even having permits for the work – moved in to remove hundreds of ancient olive trees near the rural town of Melendugno.
These trees are essential to many peoples’ livelihoods. They are beloved by the local people and are hundreds (some apparently thousands) of years old.
Local organising stepped up a gear and each day since then, hundreds of people have gathered at the site to peacefully resist the construction.
The local mayor managed to stop the works whilst the permits were investigated, but this pause lasted only three days.
The national government sent in police to defend the interests of the pipeline company, pushing the crowds back with shields and batons to allow works to continue. A number of injuries to local people were reported.
Over the course of these few days, many trees were uprooted and removed from the area, a heartbreaking sight for the locals.
But they didn’t give in. Public meetings were held regularly, drawing crowds of 500-1000 people.
The campaign has been in the headlines in the Italian press, and solidarity actions and messages have been sent by groups in Milan, Bologna and Rome.
The protests started to hit national and international news, daily gatherings at the site got bigger and bigger, and one night, people built stone barricades to stop vehicles accessing the site.
Update 24 April: At the time of writing, the removal of the trees is still suspended. Although local courts recently gave the green light for works to resume, the peaceful protests, barricades and daily gatherings continue to delay the pipeline construction. There is now just a small window now for the remaining trees to be removed because in May, the growing season starts and the trees must remain for the summer.
We don’t know what will happen next, but the local No TAP Committee is determined to stop the pipeline altogether. They are making it clear that it is an unnecessary project, especially since demand for gas is dropping in Europe. They believe that it is undemocratic and being imposed by the government against the will of local people, and that it will cause vast economic and irreparable environmental damage to the area.
Their message is “Né qui né altrove” – “No TAP, not here or anywhere”.
To learn more about the TAP, which is also called the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline, take a look at the multimedia platform Walking the Line.