Greater Mussayib Project: Babylon, Iraq


April 1981 August 1981




Soil Scientist

Greater Mussayib Project



Part of a team comprising Irrigation Engineers, Drainage Engineers, Agricultural Engineers, Agronomist and Soil Scientist fielded by Binnies and Partners with Mott MacDonald (MMP) and Hunting Technical Services (HTS).

The aim was to re-assess this very large irrigation scheme for re-planning and refurbishment following years of poor management and failing drainage with resultant very serious salinisation.

Study included infiltration and hydraulic conductivity measurements, on the right we have the drainage engineer and agronomist lending moral support to the soil scientist whilst he does surface and sub-surface infiltration measurements.


Augering to 5 metres

Author's Input:

Carried out investigations directed towards the re-evaluation and re-planning of this large irrigation scheme. Virtually all canals had become silted up or blocked by weeds. Major earth moving equipment was required to clear the main canal.

Studies included re-interpretation of existing soil surveys and production of land classification mapping.

Soil sampling for laboratory determination of salinity and sodicity, deep augering (5m) to assess drainage characteristics and infiltration tests, surface and sub-surface.

Areas unsuitable for intensive irrigated agriculture identified and the methodology for reclamation of saline soils set up.

The project area contained a high proportion of Vertisols with very distinctive surface cracking and extremely hard soils when dry - making augering and profile pit excavation very difficult.

One of the hottest and hungriest studies ever undertaken. The situation got so bad one day that water from the irrigation canal had to be drunk - not to be recommended! Tried staying at the Babylon Hotel attached to the ancient city, which was being rebuilt. This hotel abandoned due to lack of availability of food before 06.00 hours and dinner not being possible due to not being in for lunch and ordering dinner! Work hours were normally 05.30 - 15.00 hours (or when the sun drove one out of the field).

Water off-take for the Mussayib Scheme was at the Hindia Barrage and the author stayed in a small hotel close to the barrage. The hotel was machine gunned one day when ground forces tried to "down" Israeli fighter bombers which were en-route to bomb the nuclear reactor being built outside Baghdad.

Greater Mussayib Project

Re-evaluation Report

Iraqi Government.

Binnie & Partners / Mott MacDonald and Partners / Hunting Technical Services Limited, 1981


Clearing Silted Main Canal


Typical Cracked Surface of Vertisol

Volume 1



Volume 2

The Present Situation


Volume 3

Project Remodelling


Volume 4

Agricultural Development


Annex 1

Landform and Soils


Annex 2



Annex 3



Annex 4

Farm Mechanisation


The lead Consultant, MMP (Now MMI), holds copies of all reports and a draft copy is available on WOSSAC