A debate began in Italy over the case of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a project created to supply gas energy in the country.
The TAP pipeline stretches from Azerbaijan all the way to Europe via Albania and Greece, and is threatening to destroy one of the most beautiful coasts of Salento, (Puglia)
TAP’s website has pointed out the so-called benefits that the pipeline will bring to the countries that it intends to serve. "The pipeline is environmentally friendly and compatible with the area and that will have no impact on tourism of Salento,” TAP’s website states. "On the Italian coast, hundreds of locations welcome millions of tourists every year. Only a few, however, have earned the Blue Flag which recognizes the quality of the sea and their services."
However, this specification does not take into account that Salento has been the leader of the Blue Flag for several years, and the pipeline will run through protected areas.
From Azerbaijan, the pipeline avoids the beautiful coasts of Greece by using its mountains (1,990 meters above sea level) to get to Albania, where it then will be built on the seabed (leaning to 111 kilometers) of the Strait of Otranto, which is a sea that is particularly vulnerable due to rough waters and significant risks, as some experts have warned. The pipeline should then land on one of the five Melendugno beaches named Caciulara St. Basil, San Foca district, which has received the Blue Flag award four times, and the five sails by Legambiente (the Italian Association of the Environment), and about a mile away from the nature reserve of international importance, The Gesine.
The steel tube reinforced by concrete is then buried 18 feet deep under the dunes, with its pit covered by concrete and mortar. Re-emerging in the woods, (which will be virtually razed to the ground by two hectares) it will unfold over land through the vineyards of Negro-amaro Northern Salento Doc Wine (destroying a large part of it) to enter the central SNAM (general gas station) of Mesa. But, not before uprooting century-old olive trees in a region that is rich with having 4 percent of oil production at the regional level.
This is an area that is highly dependent on tourism where young people rely on tourism for their daily sustenance. The pipeline will put their future in tourism in jeopardy by destroying the region’s natural resources. These include a number of sites of common interest and an archaeological site of extraordinary beauty, Roca Vecchia, known as the Mycenae of Salento. Along 500 meters of beach, this area is regularly reported by the national travel magazines to be among the most beautiful beaches in Puglia, with Punta Cassano Tourist residences. In the dunes, spawn the now rare sea turtles, Caretta caretta. The project will involve the destruction of these beautiful beaches, undermining years of hard work to raise the level of Salento's first tourist destination in Italy.
These problems were highlighted in a report presented last year in November by the Ministry of the Environment, which consulted 25 experts (including architects, engineers, geologists, chemists, doctors, and lawyers) called to share their expertise by Melendugno’s Mayor, Marco Poti, and coordinated by the professor of the Polytechnic of Bari, Engineer Guido Borri.
As of press time, the Ministry of Environment approved the Environmental Impact Assessment report filed by TAP, which included 58 requirements. It was promptly rejected by the Ministry of Culture at the Fiera del Levante (Bari) headed by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and attended by 40 mayors from Salento. Melendugno Mayor Poti praised the president of the Nichi Vendola Region by reiterating that “Puglia is not the trash of others.”
In response, Environment Minister Galletti, who recently approved the Environmental Impact Assessment report, has said that the project is a definite go, prompting an immediate opposition from the Ministry of Culture. Prime Minister Renzi, however, said that there is space for talks on the final decision. The gas pipeline project has been met favorably despite the strong opposition highlighted in the studies and opinions of many experts.
Italian and international tourism expert journalists and tour operators met by Mayor Poti and Alfredo Fasiello of Lido San Basilio on the spot have commented and already posted on their Facebook profiles, "This is heaven, it would be a real sin too destroy it."
At Melendugno, in the estate of Masseria del Capitano, where the pre-historic Dolmen Placa and Gurgulante are found, will be built the central airlock, with ten-meter high chimneys to dispose of the smoke. Around it, the wilderness - 12 hectares of land will not be allowed any activity.
The Council of the municipalities involved have also declared in resolutions passed on October 14, 2013 that it is an unsuitable place to house the central depressurization station, because it is located very close to the towns of Melendugno, Vernole, and Calimera, and it is located in a non-industrialized zone, hosting farms and olive groves that characterize the typical landscape of Salento.
Furthermore, the project does not mention the system of water supply required to operate the plant. From here, there is the fear of the greatest risk of draining the already delicate balance of ground water table of Salento.
This work will be cast off in the next 50 years, experts have warned. The TAP company intends to consider it "disposable work." The underground gas pipeline will be left to a slow corrosion, which, as Carmen Mancarella, Editor of “Beaches,” the journal of tourism and culture of Salento, put it, will be "a gift for future generations for whom their parents are working at great sacrifice, hoping to deliver them a better land.”