BP is in the news again: this time archaeologists are fearful that BP's plan to sink a new oil well off the coast of Libya will endanger many coastal and underwater settlements and wrecks dating from the Roman period.

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""They are very important sites and they are very fragile," Claude Sintes, the director of the Museum of Ancient Arles in the south of France and director of the sub-aquatic team of the French archaeological mission to Libya, told the British newspaper. "If there is a problem with oil, like in the U.S., and it washes on to the shore it's going to be very difficult to clean the remains because the stones are porous."

Other archaeologists say that there are tens of thousands of wrecks from the Roman period off the Libyan coast, but that maps of the seabed are not detailed enough to know their precise location -- or to determine that they won't be damaged by seismic surveying or drilling.

..."The problem is not BP or Libya. The sea has no boundaries and when accidents happen, in national or international waters, effects are felt in the whole Mediterranean," said Antonio D'Alli, the chairman of the Italian Senate's environment commission. "Considering it is already one of the most oil-polluted seas in the world, the impact of a major spill could be irreversible."

...And a potential oil spill isn't the only threat facing Libya's coasts and ancient treasures. "Tankers already pump out bilge; there are already oil platforms; and ancient sites are being bulldozed because their coastal locations are so valuable," Dr. Nic Flemming, a British archaeologist, told the Independent. "Countries sign up to protection treaties, but if somebody comes along with a lot of money and says 'I want to build a hotel that will create so many jobs,' then the treaties are forgotten.""

Source: TreeHugger (Jennifer Hattam - 12.09.2010)

Read more:
LibyaOnline (12.09.2010)
The Independent (Andrew Johnson - 12.09.2010)