The following Q&A from TAP discusses Italy’s olive tree removal, land parcels, political and environmental rights, project delays, and pros and cons of the pipeline.
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Why does TAP have to move olive trees in Melendugno?
To avoid any impact on the San Foca beach, TAP is building a 1.5 km microtunnel. This state-of-the-art engineering minimises environmental impact and renders the pipeline invisible.
To start building the microtunnel – at a site approximately 800 m inland from the beach – TAP, as a first step, needs to move and store 231 olive trees, which will later be replanted at the same location.
How many trees will be moved in total?
To enable building the microtunnel, TAP will move 211 olive trees as a first step. Out of the total 231 olive trees in the microtunnel perimeter, four have been found to be affected by the xylella bacterium. According to Italian legislation and as instructed by the authorities, these will be destroyed so that the disease cannot spread. The 16 remaining trees are monumental olive trees and will require a different procedure, already in place with the Phytosanitary office in Bari.
As a second step, TAP will then move and store an additional approximately 2000 olive trees along the pipeline’s 8 km route, from the microtunnel exit to the Pipeline Receiving Terminal (PRT).
What will happen to the olive trees?
TAP has already been looking after the first set of 231 olive trees for more than 18 months. This has involved systematic and regular treatments aimed to make the trees stronger and protect them against the xylella bacterium.
The 211 olive trees will be transported to a specially designated nursery area, located in Masseria del Capitano, close to the PRT, 8 km inland. In the nursery they will be stored and cared for a period of around three years. The four olive trees infected by the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium must be destroyed to avoid the infection from spreading. The 16 monumental olive trees will be moved following a different procedure at a later stage.
Once the pipeline construction activities are completed in 2019, the olive trees will be brought back and planted in their original perimeter.
Is this legal?
Yes. TAP has received the two main permits needed in Italy to start working: the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) decree (in September 2014) and the Single Authorization (in May 2015), issued respectively by the Ministry of Environment and by the Ministry of Economic Development.
Additionally, at the end of 2016, TAP has received all the relevant secondary authorisations (so-called Verifications of Compliance) for moving the first batch of olive trees found in the project microtunnel area (A44, A29 and A45).
Is this common?
Yes, this is a standard practice in the region.
In the Puglia region alone tens of thousands of olive trees are moved annually to allow the construction of infrastructure and energy projects, including roads, aqueducts etc.
How exactly are the trees moved?
First, the olive trees are mapped, labelled, pruned and treated. A special net is placed above the branches in order to protect them against the xylella bacterium. Using a specially designed machine, the olive trees are taken out of the ground, while keeping their roots and surrounding soil intact. The roots are then wrapped up in a jute cloth to protect them during transportation and replanting.
Following a transport plan developed in partnership with the local authorities, the olive trees are then carefully transported to the nursery area under control inspectors of local authorities of Phytosanitary Service, 8 km from their current area, where they will be replanted in special wooden boxes for a period of around three years. Using the same process, the olive trees will be brought back to their original area in 2019 and replanted.
How has TAP prepared the olive trees for this move?
Starting from the autumn of 2015, TAP has mapped the olive trees, labelled them and carried out regular phytosanitary treatment against the Xyllela fastidiosa bacterium. The olive trees have also been pruned regularly, according to best agricultural practices.
The Phytosanitary Service of Apulia Region also inspected the olive trees at the end of February 2017 and authorised the moving of the healthy 211 trees (except for the four infected trees and the 16 monumental olive trees).
How long will this take?
The moving of this first phase of olive trees is expected to be completed in approximately two weeks’ time.
Who is moving the olive trees?
TAP is working with a local contractor – Mello company from Carmiano – who has 30 years of experience in this area. Mello worked for the requalification of Natural Protected Areas in Salento (Porto Selvaggio) and are one of the companies certified by the official register of the Forestry Department of Apulia region.
Has TAP bought or expropriated the land on which TAP is building the microtunnel exit and the 8 km pipeline?
Part of the working area over the 8 km pipeline and microtunnel entry point area was temporarily leased through amicable agreements with landowners and part of it was acquired by temporary occupation by law (Ministerial decree). In both cases, these lands will be returned to the land owner after works have finished. To secure the proper operation and maintenance of pipeline, easement rights have been imposed over the 8 km pipeline route, either by amicable agreements or ministerial decree.
All the aboveground installations (pipeline receiving terminal, block valve station and access roads) will be built over land owned by TAP, all acquired by amicable agreement.
How many landowners we have leased the land from for the area that we are now moving the olive trees from and how many land parcels there are in total?
MT area and access rods (for a total number of 235 olive trees affected – four destroyed because of xylella, 16 not to be moved now as monumental) are located over three properties as follows:
- Pascali land (three landowners), the working area has been leased by means of amicable agreement.
- Sciolti land (five landowners, of which three vulnerable), the working area has been occupied by means of a compulsory act released by Ministry of Economic Development.
- Cannoletta land (one landowner), the working area has been leased by means of amicable agreement.
The total number of parcels affected by the whole project in Italy is 188 plots of private land.
And of those landowners how many were those where we reached amicable agreements with and how many we did not?
Over 90% of the whole working area of the project in Italy was acquired by amicable agreement.
How many land parcels in Italy does TAP need to acquire? Has it acquired all and are there any outstanding? If so, how many?
All private lands were acquired. Three public land plots still need to be acquired. Further additional lands are under investigation by project team, because of poor quality design of the technical project related to PRT access road.
Has all compensation been paid?
Compensations due to amicable agreements were all already paid.
If not paid or agreed have they been put into Escrow accounts?
Compensations due to temporary occupation and forced easement by Decree of the Minister of Economic Development have been all either directly paid to the affected landowner or deposited to an Escrow Account.
TAP also offered free technical assistance and advice for landowners to withdraw the compensation deposited into the Escrow Account.
It is claimed that there is great opposition to TAP in Italy
Whilst it is true that there are a local minority who oppose the project, TAP in contrast has a wide range of stakeholders and communities who do support the project. First of all the National Government and all the relevant Ministries involved in the authorisation process (Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Economic Development).
TAP has been continuously engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and communities across Italy –including the Puglia Region– since the early project planning phase. Several rounds of discussions were held to that effect, so as to listen to local concerns and provide clarification about the project’s environmental footprint, including concrete measures for mitigating or minimising any environmental impact.
One of the priorities of TAP’s communication activities in Puglia has been –and remains so to date– to reinforce that the project has a minimal environmental impact. For that purpose and in order to dispel any inaccuracies, falsehoods and concerns we have organised multiple information campaigns to give as much information as possible about the project and address concerns that the community had. One such campaign has been to illustrate the example of other Italian regions and the beach resort island of Ibiza –where pipeline landfalls have been perfectly integrated into the environment– we have shown that infrastructure projects and touristic resorts can fully coexist.
TAP’s geological surveys on the San Foca beach (to understand the soil’s) profile have been conducted in record time (1.5 days vs the anticipated one week) and without any visible trace on the beach. It is worth adding that operations were conducted smoothly, thanks to the effective co-operation with local authorities and the high technical quality of our contractors’ services.
TAP will continue to engage in line with the highest industry standards. TAP will also continue to inform and engage with local and regional stakeholders about the project, provide accurate information and clarify any queries they may have.
A poll conducted by ISPO (one of the leading Italian polling firms) in the summer of 2014 among opinion leaders in the Salento area has shown that:
- 60% think that arguments against the construction of TAP are groundless and are the result of the NIMBY effect.
- 80% say that the TAP pipeline is safe and reliable.
- 58% say that TAP is not harmful for tourism.
- 70% say that TAP is not dangerous for the health and safety of the people who live in the surrounding areas.
Recent TAP Social and Environmental Initiatives in the project area also show great interest and participation to TAP programmes, as an indirect signal of acceptance and support to the project. In 2016-2017 TAP launched a small grants programme for projects to be financed locally (environmental, cultural and social fields), promoted by local associations; a high level training programme for restaurant owners; ICT and English courses; The Marine Litter Project, an initiative rolled out with the local University in order to clean beaches and the sea bottom.
It is argued that TAP will offer very little to Italy, which itself does not need its gas supplies
This is also not true. Italy needs to diversify its natural gas supplies (2011: Algeria 34%; Russia 28%; Qatar 9%; Libya 3%) as much as any other European country, which explain why energy diversification is such a core goal for the EU for geostrategic (Ukrainian crisis, political instability in North Africa) and economic reasons (competition may help to lower prices: SEN – National Strategy for Energy – estimate €4.1 billion/y). TAP also offers the same opportunity as it does to Greece and Albania: to elevate their role in the regional, European, and even global energy maps by becoming key energy hubs for natural gas. In addition, the large majority of strategic procurement contracts have been awarded to Italian companies – which are worth hundreds of millions of euros. In addition, TAP has committed to spend €12 million in social investment and environmental projects to support the communities it is present in.
It is claimed that all local and regional stakeholders affected by the pipeline in Italy are opposed to the project, including provincial governments, Municipalities, local civil society, the Church and even cultural organisations. That leaves only the central government in support of the project
TAP is committed to responsibly deliver a world class project along its entire length in Italy, Albania and Greece.
TAP’s landfall in San Foca was selected as the best possible location for the TAP pipeline to enter Italy; i.e. the one with the least environmental impact, even from the construction phase. This was confirmed and validated by the National Technical Committee when they approved TAP’s Environmental Impact Assessment (Comitati tecnico Nazionale per le Valutazioni di Impatto Ambientale) in September 2014. As part of this process, TAP analysed 20 landfall points along the Apulian coastline and identified San Foca as the one with the least environmental impact.
TAP will bring a wide range of benefits to Italy:
- Diversify and secure security of supply.
- Create jobs and indirect employment opportunities.
- Support social and environmental programmes.
To that effect, TAP continues to inform local and regional stakeholders about the project; to provide accurate information; and to clarify any queries they may have.
It is also claimed that TAP is attempting to improve its image by handing out donations and sponsorships in southern Italy, despite the fact that these have been refused in certain cases
In co-operation with local partners, TAP has designed a social and investment programme, which will focus on enhancing:
- Livelihoods, with a particular focus on the sectors of tourism, agriculture and fisheries.
- Environmental management, with a focus on issues linked to tourism, agriculture and the marine environment.
- Community quality of life, particularly focused on services and infrastructure.
In July 2016, we launched TAPstart. The programme offers €200 000 to associations and non-profit organisations in Melendugno for projects aiming to improve the quality of life through cultural, social and environmental initiatives.
TAP aims to launch further calls for submissions twice a year during the pipeline construction period, for a total of €1.4 million being invested in such initiatives.
It is asserted that very few beneficiaries of TAP’s socio-environmental investments in Italy have actually received any money
The first edition of TAPstart, i.e. the call for projects of non-profit associations in the municipality of Melendugno, has been positively concluded: numerous organisations have submitted proposals in line with TAP’s four objectives for socio-environmental investment: economic development, quality of life, skills development or environmental protection.
Seven projects were selected and associations will receive €25 000 each for the implementation of their projects, which will bring direct benefits to the community.
A committee of independent experts assessed the received proposals, and by the end of 2016, TAP will announce the winners.
Will the project be delayed because of the current protests in Italy?
TAP’s schedule is at risk of delivering Shah Deniz gas in 2020, if olive trees are not removed from the micro tunnel worksite by the end of April 2017. Italy’s permitting process, which is very complex and detailed, is probably one of the biggest challenges that the project faces in terms of meeting its schedule on time.
Is it true that TAP has no legal rights to enter the land where the olive trees are situated in Italy to remove them?
No, this is incorrect. TAP has all the necessary permits it needs to remove the olive trees from the national government.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldpipelines.com/project-news/28032017/tap-delivers-insightful-qa/