x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Babylon in peril

Archeological work at the site of the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon is now imperilled by an oil pipeline. There must be a better route for modern needs.

It's an inescapable phenomenon that the old eventually gives way to the new. But some old things are worth preserving. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are known to scholars and schoolchildren alike as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But an argument has broken out in Iraq over a new oil pipeline running through the ruins of the Inner City of ancient Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar II is said to have built the gardens to please his homesick wife.

Archaeologists say drilling to lay the pipes, and the potential for an explosion, are endangering the city ruins and priceless artefacts; the authorities say there is nothing of heritage value in the path of the pipeline.

In the past decade, war and looting have deprived Iraq of many of its ancient treasures. Damage to this famous site will further diminish its heritage value and hurt the nation's tourism potential.

Industrial infrastructure is vitally important, but surely some of the billions of dollars that oil generates could be used to divert the pipeline to ensure an irreplaceable historical site that has already weathered the ages can be properly protected for future generations.

Nothing can stop progress. But on occasion those who push forward at all costs should be willing to bend just a little.