Tap in to the public mood24 August 2018
Growing up in southern Italy, I spent most of my days during the hot summers in an olive tree in my garden. This hundred-year-old tree kept all of my secrets and protected the little girl who wanted to explore new cities all over the world. I still love my home, Nardò, situated in Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot) but as an adult I left my olive tree to work in London.
And now, returning to Puglia as assistant editor of T&T, I would like to share my feelings around the controversial Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project in Puglia (see article, pp.28-31).
The project will bring gas from Caspian Sea, through Turkey and Greece until it makes landfall near San Foca, a seaside town in Puglia.
Walking through streets in the area, you can read on the walls ‘No TAP’. The project is cast as a devil, one responsible for destroying over 200 ancient olive trees. The thought is a punch to the stomach for any Pugliese. But it turns out that as part of the project, trees have been planted in a protective nursery, and are due to be re-planted when the tunnel is fi nished in 2020.
So, my fears were gone, but I wanted to understand what was upsetting all the No TAP protesters, who have been trying to stop or slow down works in each way. Not only with sit-ins, but also threatening episodes such as paper bombs.
During my visit, I asked the project manager about public engagement, as happens for projects all over the world. He replied: “We tried to arrange some meetings, but when some speakers expressed interest, they were just labelled ‘shills’.
The objection to gas itself, which is the less polluting of the fossil fuels, is not the problem. In Puglia we have two coal power plants and one of the biggest steel plants in Europe, which is known to be the cause of an elevated local cancer rate.
The TBM does, however, have to excavate below the beach after the summer, leaving people concerned about swimming or sunbathing and having a monster underneath their towel.
I believe that the main problem is education, fear of the unknown. Many people, politicians included, are not used to this kind of infrastructure. That is why construction machines like excavators, crawler cranes and TBMs can be intimidating or even scary.
We need to overcome fear through education. I strongly believe that children from all over the world, not only in big cities, should have an awareness of engineering.
Development should be seen for what it is: an opportunity and not an obstacle. This is what I have learned from working for construction magazines.