#102 CRM Abroad: Pipeline Threatens Babil Fortress

Babil Fortress, a 1,400 year old fortress in Babylon and former home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the hanging gardens, is under threat, yet again.  Babil fortress is located in modern day Iraq and has seen its share of destruction.  In the 1970s and the early 1980s two oil product pipelines were built under the site and a third line was just opened in March.  The Iragi Oil Ministry wants to extend the pipeline through the wall of the Fortress.  Additional destruction came when Saddam Hussein built a palace on the site and carried out his own brand of reconstruction by having his initials carved into the ancient bricks.

According to a 2009 UNESCO report US troops damaged the site when the turned it into a military base.  Specifically damaged were the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way.  Contents of two of the museums on site were stolen and/or destroyed during the Iraqi war.

The Fortress has withstood the wrath of God (if you believe that sort of thing), Assyrian, Roman, Islamic and American invasions, but, can it withstand the Iraqi government’s need for cheap oil?  

Ishtar GateThe General Authority of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq has a lawsuit pending against the Oil Projects Committee to prevent further damage.  Officials in Iraq have been trying desperately to gain the site UNESCO World Heritage status but the continued destruction is, apparently, making that difficult.  I can’t believe the site isn’t already listed.  Also, it seems as though determining eligibility is done much the same way it is here.  If you want to destroy an eligible site in this country (U.S.) through development then just wait a while.  Each time the site is assessed, and decay has increased, or looters have had their fun, the chances that the site is still eligible decreases.  I’ve been to sites that were previously recorded as eligible or potentially eligible only to re-evaluate them as not eligible for various reasons.  Sometimes, those reasons were because all of the artifacts were collected during the previous recording and we have nothing to record.  Nice.

Let’s hope the Iraqi’s have better luck with their Fortress, although, it seems that oil needs always win out over heritage and history.