Protesters in Puglia Clash With Police Over Removal of Olive Trees for Pipeline

The project has already been delayed by a year due to opposition from locals, who are fiercely opposed to the removal of olive trees, some of which are over 100 years old.

Mar. 29, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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An olive grove in Puglia became a bat­tle­ground on Tues­day. Protests against the removal of ancient olive trees to make way for the Trans-Atlantic Pipeline esca­lated as activists threw stones and bot­tles at police, who retal­i­ated by charg­ing at the pro­test­ers with batons.

Tues­day’s protests began with envi­ron­men­tal­ists lying down out­side the site at Melen­dugno, to pre­vent trucks and trac­tors enter­ing. Later in the day police dis­pensed a group of around 50 activists includ­ing town may­ors from the area and broke up a cor­don made up of around 300 pro­test­ers.

Gian­luca Mag­giore, one of the protest lead­ers told the Tele­graph, Our bat­tle is entirely legit­i­mate and we have always wanted it to be peace­ful, but the response of the police was dis­pro­por­tion­ate.”

The protests erupted fol­low­ing Mon­day’s deci­sion by a top Ital­ian court to give the go-ahead for work to start on the tree removal despite appeals by the local gov­ern­ment of Puglia.

Gian Luca Gal­letti, Italy’s envi­ron­ment min­is­ter told the Tele­graph, The project is fully in accor­dance with all law.” He added, We hope that com­mon sense will pre­vail.”


Last week, devel­op­ers uprooted 33 trees before being forced to stop by pro­test­ers. On Tues­day around 30 trees were removed accord­ing to a TAP spokesman who told Reuters the com­pany planned to speed up the process, pro­vid­ing protests did not esca­late.

The project had already been delayed by a year due to oppo­si­tion from locals, who are fiercely opposed to the removal of olive trees, some of which are 100 years old.

The town’s coun­cil and Puglia Regional Author­ity have sup­ported locals in their fight. Michele Emil­iano, the cen­ter-Left gov­er­nor called it ille­gal” and told the Tele­graph, The gov­ern­ment has proved inca­pable of lis­ten­ing to Puglia.”

TAP are under increas­ing pres­sure as around 2,000 olive trees need to be moved by April before they begin their growth spurt. Oth­er­wise, their removal will be delayed until Novem­ber.

Once the pipeline is com­plete, the trees will be replanted in their orig­i­nal sites. Dur­ing the con­struc­tion, They will be trans­ported to a spe­cially des­ig­nated nurs­ery area where they will be stored and cared for, for a period of around three years,” a spokesman for the con­sor­tium told the Tele­graph. Once the pipeline con­struc­tion activ­i­ties are com­pleted in 2019, the olive trees will be brought back and planted,” he added.

Cam­paign­ers fought to have the pipeline moved to an indus­trial area north of the olive grove. The devel­op­ers claim that around 20 other loca­tions were con­sid­ered but rejected and that the route cho­sen will have the least impact on the region and the envi­ron­ment.

The $4.5 bil­lion Trans-Atlantic Pipeline is the final leg of the 2,200-mile-long South­ern Gas Cor­ri­dor. It will carry gas from Asia to Europe, reduc­ing the EU’s depen­dence on Russ­ian energy.

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