SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Babylon's Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but heritage appears to be no match for Iraq's booming oil industry in a dispute over a new pipeline.
As Baghdad is working to get UNESCO to list Babylon as a World Heritage Site, archaeologists and oil ministry officials are in a battle over a pipeline that one side insists threatens the site and could cause irreparable damage to the ruins.
Qais Rashid, head of the Supreme Board of Antiquities and Heritage, said the oil ministry drilled to extend a pipeline that runs about 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) in length, to transport petroleum products through the archaeological site of Babylon.
The pipeline was officially opened in March.
"The work could damage priceless antiquities belonging to the modern era of Babylon, especially by drilling," Rashid said.
Mariam Omran, head of the antiquities department in Babil province where the site lies, added that much of the archaeological area was still unexplored, and while no damage was visible, there was no telling what the impact was beneath the surface.
"There may be antiquities just centimetres below the ground," she said. "The antiquities at these sites have not yet been fully discovered, just like the rest of the historical landmark."
But oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad defended the Babylon project, saying "it was carried out ... hundreds of metres (yards) from the archaeological sites."
"We did not find any traces or evidence of the existence of antiquities during the drilling operations."
Babylon lies some 90 kilometres (50 miles) south of Baghdad and is considered one of the cradles of human civilisation. It was the capital for two renowned kings of antiquity: Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) and Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 BC), who built the Hanging Gardens. – www.shafaqna.com