From the time a mythological of the Iliad till present times, the Tremiti Islands have always been a war zone. Diomede, upon his return from the war that destroyed the city of Troy, learns that his Queen, Egialea, has been unfaithful to him. The monarch decides to leave their land and sail in search of a new homeland. When he has landed on the coasts of Gargano, he has received the hospitality of King Dauno, who allowed him to build a small kingdom of which Diomede traced the boundaries with the boulders he had brought from Thrace. When they have finished building the city, some cyclopean stones were left. He indignantly threw them off the coast, giving rise to Diomede Islands (later renamed to the Tremiti Islands).
Six small islands which constitute a delicate ecosystem, probably the richest islands of the Adriatic Sea as to the number of marine species. But now this paradise is likely to disappear forever. Last 22 December, the Italian Minister of Economic Development, Federica Guidi, approved the continuation of some explorations a few miles away from the coast, in search of oil deposits. This is not the first time that the Italian State authorizes geological surveys to search for oil deposits, but a further intervention could be fatal for the whole archipelago. The regions of Apulia and Molise, as well as the mayors of the Gargano are contrary, and announce fight. They have started an anti-drills campaign, invoking the involvement of the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella.
The decision to give way to several “geophysical explorations” falls in the change of direction of the Renzi Government, which a few days before the end of 2015, once the decrees on the search for oil in the Tremiti Islands, Lampedusa, Abruzzo, and in the Gulf of Taranto was in their hands, he has decided to freeze the “no triv referendums”. The company that will bring forward the explorations in the depths of the islands is Petroceltic Italy. Search operations will take place through the “air-gun” processes, i.e., rather relevant explosions which threaten to compromise the existence of the entire ecosystem. Besides, the rumbles may push animal species away from the reserve, the main source of food for the inhabitants of the island, most of whom are fishermen.
This case has drawn hail of criticism, and there are different points of view on the question of the rigs: if the Minister Guidi denies that the operation is invasive, saying that there is much ado about nothing, whose sole goal is exploitation, the inhabitants of the islands will show their concern for the future of the beauties that have been feeding tourism in this natural reserve protected by the Ente Parco Nazionale del Gargano for a long time. Fishermen are ready to defend their territory.
The authorities raise their voice as well: “|We will go to Rome to garrison the palace of the Ministry for Economic Development. There are not so many people on the Tremiti Islands, it will be enough for us to hop on a bus – the mayor Antonio Fentini says -. They are not going to win: what can several thousand euros mean for a community that has struggled so much to grow, switching from fishing to tourism? The government wants to nullify all our efforts for a few drops of oil”. It is a slap in the face of honest citizens who have always worked in respect of the environment.
In truth, the battle against drilling has been going on for some years now, as it was confirmed also by Andrea Faccani, cousin to Lucio Dalla. Speaking about the inhabitants of the Tremiti Islands, he has compared them with the characters of Massimo Troisi’s film Il postino: “Those place were Lucio Dalla’s home, disfiguring that sea is a folly”. Also the hoteliers and restaurateurs, whom those waters helped to build a house, a family, a job and a life over the years, come together in an attempt to make the Government change its mind: “This is a protected area, we live on tourism: the sea is our history and our bread. Why do they keep trying their luck if there is no advantage for Italy? Not only the Tremiti Islands, but the entire Adriatic should be protected”. In this situation, we need to rethink Pope Francis’ encyclical letter. In this document the Pontiff stresses that all people should work together to preserve the planet from Man’s insanity who is ready to destroy everything, even their own home, even the Tremiti Islands, for profit.
To this regard, Father Massimo’s testimony is emblematic. He is a parish priest of Syrian origins who has been living in the parish of Santa Maria a Mare for the last 5 years. He compares this situation to a true war: “This is a paradise, and this is a war: decisions taken on higher levels are imposed on the people. The Pope, in his encyclical letter, speaks about nature, that is, about us: they are destroying our home. We will not allow them to do so”. On these rocks, myth mingles with history and the beauty of a unique landscape, which cannot be found elsewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. Are we really sure we want to sell it off for a few drops of oil?