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Up to 10,000 Olive Trees to Be Moved For Gas Pipe

Ten thousand olive trees, including some as old as 400 years, will be moved from a UNESCO-recognized olive grove in Puglia, as work on the $40 billion Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) finally gets underway.

Mar. 10, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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Ten thou­sand olive trees, includ­ing some mon­u­men­tal trees” in Puglia, are slated for relo­ca­tion as work on the $4.5 bil­lion Trans Adri­atic Pipeline (TAP) finally gets under­way.

There is a risk that some olive trees won’t sur­vive.- Marco Poti, Melen­dugno mayor

On 7th March a TAP spokesman told Reuters, We’re going to start mov­ing the olives in a few days.” He con­firmed that the com­pany had com­plied with all the reg­u­la­tions required to pro­ceed with uproot­ing the trees. Work was due to begin on TAP last year but was delayed by strong local oppo­si­tion includ­ing protests.

The spokesman con­firmed that admin­is­tra­tion pro­ce­dures for the removal of the trees were com­plete. He added that the required health checks on the trees were under­way.

A spokesper­son for TAP told Olive Oil Times, In Italy, TAP needs to move the first batch of olive trees found in the project micro-tun­nel area (231 olive trees), and the trees found along the pipeline’s 8km route, from the micro-tun­nel to the pipeline receiv­ing ter­mi­nal (PRT), approx­i­mately 2,000 olive trees. So in total, TAP will move under 2,300 olive trees. It is impor­tant to high­light that the trees will be tem­porar­ily cared for in a nurs­ery area, and later replanted in their orig­i­nal loca­tions.”

The 10,000 fig­ure is if we include the Snam sec­tion from the TAP pipeline receiv­ing ter­mi­nal to Brin­disi,” the spokesper­son added. None of the olive trees along TAP’s route are rec­og­nized by UNESCO. Some of the trees (for instance 16 among the 231 olive trees in the micro-tun­nel area) are reg­is­tered in a spe­cial regional reg­is­ter, under the label mon­u­men­tal olive trees’ (which means they meet cer­tain para­me­ters in size and age), but this does not meet that they are pro­tected by UNESCO.”

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Marco Poti, a mayor in the Melen­dugno dis­trict of Puglia told Reuters, There is a risk that some olive trees won’t sur­vive.” Poti claimed that trans­plant­ing the trees could expose them to Xylella fas­tidiosa, a deadly dis­ease which rav­aged thou­sands of Puglia’s olive trees in 2015. Xylella may be present in some of the trees sched­uled to be moved. Dis­eased trees will be destroyed instead of moved.

Pipelines International

TAP will trans­port nat­ural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in Azer­bai­jan to Europe. The approx­i­mately 870 km pipeline will con­nect with the Trans Ana­to­lian Pipeline at the Turk­ish-Greek bor­der at Kipoi, cross Greece and Alba­nia and the Adri­atic Sea, before com­ing ashore in South­ern Italy.

Puglia res­i­dents have fought against the removal of their olive trees from Italy’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ing region. Puglia’s gov­er­nor Michele Emil­iano sup­ported locals by lob­by­ing for the pipeline to be sited fur­ther away, in an indus­trial area to the north of the olive grove.

In 2015 plans to destroy infected olive trees roused pas­sion in Puglia. The scheme was scrapped when pro­test­ers took to the streets and climbed olive trees to pre­vent their destruc­tion.

The devel­op­ers are under extreme pres­sure to get started as the trees must be moved by the end of April, before their six-month growth spurt com­mences. If the trees and not moved by then, work will be delayed until the end of Novem­ber. The trees will be moved at a rate of 20 a day. It will take around a week to clear the first batch.

Rome approved the pipeline in 2015, under the pro­viso that olive trees were trans­planted dur­ing the lay­ing and cov­er­ing of pipes, and then returned to their orig­i­nal sites. In Octo­ber 2016 local author­i­ties appealed for the pipeline to be rerouted, away from the olive grove.

TAP will carry around 10 bil­lion cubic meters (bcm) of Azeri gas to Italy annu­ally. Local opin­ion is divided over the pipeline. Farm­ers and olive oil pro­duc­ers argue that the olive grove is an impor­tant part of the region’s iden­tity. Oth­ers have expressed con­cern over the impact the pipeline will have on tourism. Some believe TAP will inject new life into the region.

The pipeline will trans­port gas from Asia to Europe, in the final stage of what is known as the south­ern gas cor­ri­dor”. It was hoped that the pipeline would deliver its first gas to Italy in 2020. TAP is con­sid­ered vital for reduc­ing the EU’s depen­dence on Russ­ian energy.



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