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 from 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.”

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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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