Balancing act: Energy needs vs. Puglia’s tourism future

Two energy-related projects now under consideration could have an adverse impact on Puglia’s physical environment and by extension the region’s tourism industry.

First, courtesy of The Guardian, is this update about a planned 2,000-mile-long natural gas pipeline to stretch from Azerbaijan to Melendugno, a town in Lecce (earlier plans to have the pipeline end in Brindisi were dropped amid protests).

As The Guardian puts it, “On one side are (former British Prime Minister) Tony Blair, a powerful consortium of energy interests, including BP, and the autocratic ruler of a former Soviet bloc country. On the other are the olive growers of Puglia and a comedian turned political maverick. (Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Movement).”

The newspaper adds that the news about Blair’s role as an advisor to the consortium behind the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) “has sparked uproar among people living close to its ultimate destination in the heel of southern Italy.”

The two sides disagree on several points – whether the pipeline would destroy beachfront resort areas, contaminate fresh water supplies, threaten the natural habitat of the already-endangered the Mediterranean monk seal and destroy centuries-old olive groves. The project is scheduled to start in 2016. Stay tuned.

Up next is a proposal to drill for oil in the Adriatic Sea in a 270-square-mile area between Brindisi and Molfetta. As reported by La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, the Bari-based “Comitato No Triv Terra di Bari” (“No Drill in the Terra di Bari Committee) is fighting the plan, offered by Global Petroleum Ltd., to search for hydrocarbon deposits. The sides differ on whether the drilling would damage the area’s tourism and fishing industries.

And that’s not all. Although it doesn’t mention Puglia by name, a study issued today by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) contends that Italy’s coastline has been “devoured” and “martyred” by widespread construction of resorts, shopping centers and other infrastructure projects, ANSA reports. In particular, ANSA quotes the WWF as contending that “the Adriatic coast…described as ‘the most urbanized in the entire Mediterranean basin,’ makes up 17% of the national coastline and is 70% covered in construction.” According to ANSA, the WWF further criticizes Italian national, regional and local government officials for “a clear lack of planning” and their failure “to oversee development and prevent environmental degradation.”

Photo by Sandro Bedessi © Copyright Fototeca ENIT

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