TAP’s No1 priority is the safety of both people and the environment, while remaining committed to minimising our environmental footprint; which is why we implement a comprehensive Environmental, Social and Cultural Heritage Management System.
Before the beginning of construction TAP, conducted extensive preliminary studies identifying natural habitats and other areas of environmental interest close to the pipeline route. Thanks to these, it became possible to introduce seasonal restrictions for certain construction activities and to avoid sensitive periods, such as breeding and hibernation or, in the case of birds, nesting; as well as to apply other mitigation measures, for instance reducing the width of the Right of Way.
An unexpected neighbour in Kozani
The brown bear is considered an endangered species in Europe. Greece is one of the few places it lives on the European continent. Indeed, the country –namely the mountain ranges of Pindos and Rodopi– accommodates about 50% of the brown bear population of western and southern Europe. And TAP contributes to the protection and conservation of the species via the specialised programmes it implements, in collaboration with its EPC contractor Bonatti/J&P Avax and relevant NGOs.
Preconstruction research conducted by the Project’s environmental team confirmed the existence of certain areas in the Regional Units traversed by the pipeline, as critical habitats of the brown bear in Greece: Vermio, Kleisoura, and the River Aliakmonas close to the Greek-Albanian border.
At the same time, however, our research revealed yet another –unknown up to now– bear-populated area: a forest in the Kozani Regional Unit. Members of the environmental team found bear tracks both in and out of the pipeline’s Right of Way (RoW) there, as well as markings on a nearby tree – a method used by bears to demarcate their territory.
So, they installed cameras to verify the presence of this very special neighbour and study its behaviour.
The discovery led TAP and its EPC contractor to the decision to narrow the width of the RoW in this particular neighbouring habitat, re-schedule certain activities in order to conclude them ahead of the winter denning period, and implement other mitigation measures – so as to not disturb the animals.
The strategy was successful: after waking up from his slumber, this bear got back undisturbed to the same tree to yet again mark his territory.
Suspension of activities near Gefyra, Thessaloniki, for the protection of avifauna
TAP’s preparatory environmental studies made a difference in another case as well; that of an old landfill near the village of Gefyra in the Thessaloniki Regional Unit. There, it became apparent during field surveys in May 2017 that –among other birds– three species of special interest were nesting: the European roller (Coracias garullus), the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) and the little owl (Athene noctua).
As a result of the discovery, TAP and its contractor decided to temporarily suspend works in the area until the end of the nesting season. In addition, weekly monitoring visits were introduced until early August, to ensure that the fledglings had left the nests.
A new survey conducted a year later, in May 2018, showed that the bird population remained active in the area. This means that after the completion of construction in Gefyra and the restoration works that followed, the birds returned to the habitat and rebuilt their nests.
So, the former landfill was transformed into a restored and suitable environment for the rare bird species living there.
The environmental teams of TAP and its contractors continue their activities of monitoring the areas traversed by the pipeline, with the utmost respect for the Greek land, aiming to protect and preserve the local environment and the wildlife it hosts.