Communities in Salento, in the southern ‘heel’ of Italy, are on the frontlines of the battle to stop the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Local people are resisting the preparation works for the pipeline’s construction. If completed, TAP would connect with the Southern Gas Corridor, carrying billions of cubic metres of gas from Azerbaijan to Italy every year from 2020.
The pipeline would come onshore in the beautiful seaside town of San Foca. Its construction, including a gas receiving terminal, is feared to damage and pollute the local landscape, coastline and clear blue waters.
Despite the climate impacts of the project, objections of the local people and local politicians, the Italian government wants to push it through.
People meeting in San Foca near the construction site. Photo: Alessandra Tommasi
Local people have been concerned about the proposals for years, but the struggle heated up on 20th March, when the pipeline company – without even having permits for the work from the local government – moved in to remove hundreds of ancient olive trees near the rural town of Melendugno.
These trees are the backbone of the economy in the area and are essential to many peoples’ livelihoods. They are beloved by the local people and are hundreds (some apparently thousands) of years old.
People were outraged at the removal of the trees, and each day hundreds of people gathered at the site to peacefully resist the construction. They were pushed back by hundreds of police in riot gear, with shields and batons.
The local government was against the works as well. The mayor managed to stop the construction whilst the permits were investigated, but this pause lasted only three days.
Over the course of the next few days, many trees were uprooted and removed from the area (including all those pictured below).
The trees in this picture have now all been removed. Photo: Alessandra Tommasi
The campaign hit the headlines in the Italian press, and solidarity actions and messages were sent by groups in Milan, Bologna and Rome.
Protests intensified, with hundreds gathering daily, and public meetings drew crowds of 500-1000 people.
Photo: No al carbone Brindisi
But so many police were present, they could not prevent the trees being removed.
So one night, people built stone barricades to stop vehicles accessing the site. These barricades, supported by the mass gatherings of people each day, were successful in stopping the pipeline works for weeks.
Local residents built barricades to block the pipeline works. Alessandra Tommasi
In the more relaxed moments when the works were paused, people continued to meet and organise cultural events, and keep up the spirit of the resistance.
Traditional musicians gathered to play and dance to “pizzica”, Salento word music, in the sunshine.
Just a few days before the summer growing season began (and further tree removal would have been prohibited for the summer), a huge police escort arrived with the subcontractors in the middle of the night, bulldozed the barricades and removed most of the remaining trees.
People were incensed.
Works are due to continue in the Autumn, but the local No TAP Committee is determined to stop the pipeline altogether. They believe that it is unnecessary, undemocratic, and that it will cause vast economic and environmental damage to the area.
Their message is “Né qui né altrove” – “No TAP, not here or anywhere”.
You can follow the campaign and send messages of support on twitter using the hashtag #NoTAP. The local organising committee is on twitter @no_tap, and on facebook @MovimentoNoTAP.