Iraq's battle for oil wells vs. cultural heritage

Iraq's battle for oil wells vs. cultural heritage

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon they were one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, but heritage seems unable to compete with the oil industry in a dispute for a new gas pipeline.

While Baghdad is working so that UNESCO includes Babylon in the list of World Heritage Sites, archaeologists and ministerial oil officials are fighting for a gas pipeline that threatens one side that could cause irreparable damage to the ruins.

Qais Rashid, head of the Superior Council of Antiquities and Heritage, says that the oil ministry has drilled to extend the gas pipeline that runs approximately 1.5 kilometers in length to transport petroleum products through the archaeological site of Babylon. The gas pipeline was officially opened in March. "The jobs could damage priceless antiquities belonging to the modern Babylonian era, especially with drilling”Says Rashid.

Remains of Babylon

Miriam Omran, head of the antiquities department at the Babil province where the place resides, adds that most of the archaeological area is still unexplored, and as long as the damage is not visible the impact on the surface is unknown. “There could be antiques just inches off the ground", He says. "The antiquities at these sites have not been fully discovered, as has the rest of the historical monument.”.

But the oil ministry, Assem Jihad spokesman defended the Babylon project, saying that "it would take place hundreds of meters from the archaeological site. We have not found pieces or evidence of the existence of antiquities during the drilling operations”.

Babylon is located about 90 kilometers south of Baghdad and is considered one of the cradles of human civilization. It was the capital of two renowned kings of ancient times: Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) and Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 BC), which built the Hanging Gardens.

The Inner City covers an area of 2'99 square kilometers and the outer walls around the city to the east and west along the Euphrates cover another 9.56 square kilometers. Recorded as a archaeological site since 1935, was partially excavated last century, but many of the remains of the ancient city are yet to be discovered.

A UNESCO 2009 report say what "the archaeological city was looted during the war against the United States in 2003 that deposed Saddam Hussein. Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi objects from museums and the Babylon Library and Archives were stolen and destroyed”.

The city was damaged by "dig, cut, scrape and level" for the American military base that was between April 2003 and December 2004.

The Ishtar Gate and the Processional Path are some of the damaged structures, according to a United Nations agency, due to the adaptations of the archaeological site by the American forces to fortify your base by building trenches and wells and using chemicals to complete construction work.

Iraq is a country rich in history and archaeological sites that offer great potential for tourism, but most of the government's revenue still comes from oil.

Exports are growing rapidly, averaging 2,508 million barrels per day in April and bringing in 8.8 billion dollars (6.8 billion euros), reaching its highest levels since 1989. Sales are providing much needed income to help rebuild of Iraq's dilapidated infrastructure, ravaged by decades of war and sanctions.

There are two gas pipelines to transport petroleum products in the same location for more than thirty years”Says Jihad, adding that“New pipeline strategy will provide oil supplies from southern Baghdad refineries”.

But Rashid displayed a map of the place on the table in his office at the National Museum of Iraq and says: “The gas pipeline runs along the northern edge of the site, through the archaeological site, and then through the southern edge”.

It says that the gas pipeline presents “higher risks", Including pollution and the threat of a potential pipeline explosion.

Omran showed a visible section of the pipe, which is located two meters underground. “The execution of this project is an extreme violation of the antiquities protection law", He says.

Iraq did three requests to establish Babylon as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under Saddam Hussein, but all they were denied because the place was badly managed, says the organizer.

Saddam did not take proper care of the place, even rebuilding part of the city with blocks stamped with your initials.

But Rashid says “UNESCO stresses that it is not just about the previous regime, but the current regime in Iraq that does not respect antiquities. UNESCO told AFP when asked about the pipeline that “it is capable of formally responding on this matter.”, But did not elaborate.

However, Rashid stated that “putting in a pipe is like a bullet that kills our efforts to include the city of Babylon" as World Heritage.

Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.

Video: Preserving Iraqs Heritage with World Monuments Fund. #GoogleArts